The Steps to Take Before Stepping Onto a Ladder for the First Time

Man climbing ladder with three points of contact following safe inspection and environmental considerations.

You’ve chosen the right ladder for the job. You’re eager to use it as soon as possible. But as surely as there are steps on your ladder, there are steps that must be taken before stepping foot on that ladder for the first time.

Inspect the Ladder

You should always inspect your ladder before using it. There are many parts of a ladder you should inspect, among them are the three R’s — rails, rungs, and ropes. And whether it’s a new ladder or an old one that you are going to climb for the first time, it’s important to look for any fractures, chips, surface cracks, or foreign materials like mud or Parrafin.

Take it from Keith Dixon, Director of Marketing and Product Development for COSCO Products. He urges:

“Definitely inspect the ladder before your first use. Do not use ladders with missing, damaged, or non-operating parts, and make sure locks are in good working order.”

In addition, he advises:

“you should ensure that it is free of grease and/or other materials that could cause you or the ladder to slip. Lastly, make sure that it meets your appropriate weight ratings.”

Consider the Environment

Then, there is your environment and that of your work site that must be taken into consideration. Builders Mutual risk consultant David Beauchamp counsels:

“Before grabbing the ladder [for the first time], walk the area where the ladder will be placed. A quality ladder won’t matter if you’re placing it on questionable ground. Place your body weight on the area to see if the soil is stable or soft. Brush away any loose top soil, pine straw, or mulch before placing the ladder.”

He continues:

“Also avoid setting up on wet grass. Sawdust-covered floors can also present a hazard. You may need to sweep the floor before setting up your ladder. That’s especially important on concrete or when you will be working on a garage slab. A little bit of sawdust on concrete can be quite slick. Of course, inspect the ladder for signs of damage and defects. Make sure that the ladder is dry. A small amount of morning dew on a ladder can create a very slick surface. Check to make sure that your shoe treads are dry, as well.”

Perhaps most importantly, never place the ladder on tarps or floor liners. Why?

“They tend to shift,” Beauchamp states. “They can also get tangled up on a construction site near the foot of the ladder. So when people are either accessing the ladder or coming off of it, they trip. You can go down, and you can go down hard.”

For more information about the steps you should take before using your ladder, visit and

National Ladder Safety Month

In addition to promoting safe ladder use in your home and workplace, get involved in National Ladder Safety Month this March – the nationwide initiative focused on increasing awareness of safe ladder use and decreasing ladder accidents. Take advantage of free resources to build awareness and share with your friends or coworkers, including: ladder safety training videos, safety posters, infographics and short videos. Join the online conversation by using #LadderSafetyMonth on your favorite social platforms.

Contributing Author: American Ladder Institute (ALI)

ALI is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved developer of ladder safety Standards. Standards are technical specifications, developed and tested by subject experts, which prescribe rules governing the safety construction, design, testing, care, and use of various types of ladders.

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