Ladder Safety: Before the First Step

Ladder safety isn’t something to take lightly. With thousands of severe ladder injuries occurring daily, it’s essential that we approach climbing to new heights with safety in mind, especially during Ladder Safety Month. Although most ladder safety instructions are geared toward being mindful of safety while climbing (which is, of course, incredibly important), we wanted to talk about ladder safety before you take that first step onto the ladder. 

Choosing Your Ladder

Before you climb, you have to select a ladder suited to the job, and the importance of choosing your ladder to fit the project at hand. Be sure to assess the work ahead of you and determine which kind of ladder would be appropriate so you can work as safely and efficiently as possible.

Learn more by viewing this Safety Training Flyer!

Ladder Inspection

After selecting the right ladder, you need to take a moment to do a quick check of the ladder before climbing. Inspections are especially important if you are on a job site where many people use the same equipment. Even if you are using a ladder at home and are the sole climber, you should still take time to inspect it to make sure it hasn’t experienced any damage between uses.

Rail Inspection

Before climbing, look at the rails of your ladder. Whether you are climbing an aluminum or fiberglass ladder, this step is important. On either rail material, there are a few things you should look for during a rail inspection.

Aluminum Ladder:

  •  Dents
  •  Cracks
  •  Bends

Fiberglass Ladder:

  •  Cracks
  •  Dents
  •  Fiberglass bloom
  •  Fiberglass splintering

If you find any of these signs of damage on your ladder, it should be tagged and removed from service. Structural damage like cracks, bends and dents can compromise the integrity of the ladder.

Fiberglass bloom and splintering typically occur from sun and heat damage. While fiberglass splinters alone can be uncomfortable, the real danger is from conductivity. Electricians choose fiberglass because of its non-conductive nature. However, when fiberglass blooms, it can become conductive, especially if it’s wet.


Check the feet of your ladder before you climb. In particular, you should be looking at the treads. Think of it like checking the treads on your tire. If they are too worn, the ladder could slide while in use, causing a dangerous situation.

Steps and Rungs

As you look closely at the steps or rungs of your ladder, you will notice fine treads on the climbing surface. As with the treads on the feet of the ladder, a worn or damaged tread on the rungs could cause your feet to slide while you work.

Setting Up Your Ladder

Improper ladder set up results in the tips, slides and falls commonly seen on YouTube, TV sitcoms and comedic movies. Although humorous to watch on-screen, having it actually happen to you is far from funny. Prior to setting up, keep these safety tips in mind.

The 4-1 Ratio

When using an extension ladder, remember this ratio: for every four feet of ladder length, the ladder’s base needs to be pulled one foot from the wall. This ratio keeps your ladder stable as you climb and prevents the ladder from sliding out from beneath you or tipping backward.

Here’s a tip to make sure you have the right ratio. With your ladder leaned against the surface, face your ladder, placing your toes against it. Raise your arms to shoulder height. If your ladder is in the right position, you should be able to touch the rungs of your ladder without adjusting. If not, alter your ladder and try again until it is at the right angle.

Obstacles and Debris

We know that most job sites aren’t particularly clean. The mess is part of the process. However, we all can do things to clean up the area around the ladder to make a safer workspace.

This is also where the “Choosing Your Ladder” section comes into play. If you are working on uneven terrain, make sure you use a ladder with leg levelers or adjustable outriggers to climb on a level surface.

Also, if you’re using a ladder in a highly trafficked area, make sure you and your ladder can be seen. Hang signs or put up cones as needed to make sure you can climb safely without someone bumping or driving into your ladder while you’re working.

Final Thoughts

Ladder safety starts before you even begin to climb and ends after you have safely put the ladder away at the end of its use. Although some may see pre-climbing inspections as a waste of precious time, it’s a crucial step that could save you from a tragic ladder-related incident.

Do you know that March is National Ladder Safety Month?
Watch this short video to find out more!

This article republished with permission from Little Giant Ladder Systems.

View our other blog posts related to ladder safety.

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