How to Safely Climb a Ladder Outdoors


Climbing ladders is necessary for some home maintenance items, which can be dangerous if proper safety procedures aren’t followed. This post will explain the safety items behind ladder usage so you can have a better home maintenance experience. 

Types of Ladders

The most important step in ladder safety is choosing the right ladder for the job. There are two main types of ladders: step ladders and extension ladders. Step ladders are generally used for heights from 2 to 12 feet, with extension ladders used beyond. Remember that a 5’ 6’’ person can reach about 4 feet from the top of the ladder, making a 4 foot ladder the minimum for an 8 foot job.

Step Ladders

Here are some general guidelines for using step ladders:

  • Ensure the spacers, the two metal braces between the legs, are locked and straight
  • Never sit or stand on the very top step of the ladder
  • Don’t climb up the backside of the ladder, unless it’s designed for two people
  • Keep your hips within the two vertical rails- if you catch yourself bending, move the ladder
  • Remove all tools and equipment before moving the ladder

Extension Ladders

Extension ladders are a bit tricky to use, but safe when used properly:

  • Lay the ladder with the base against the house, push it upright using the top end of the ladder, and lean it. 
  • Grab any run around thigh-height, and pull out the base toward you. In general, for every 4 feet of height, the base should be pulled forward by 1 foot. 
  • Grab the rope and pull to raise the top end of the ladder to the desired height. Ensure rung hooks are locked and tie the rope off. 
  • Ensure both legs are making contact with the ground and not on a slippery surface. If one leg is elevated dig a hole rather than stacking blocks to keep them level. 
  • Face the ladder while ascending and descending. Make sure to grab the rungs and not the rails. 

Ladder Materials, Capacity, Level Surface

Ladder materials can matter- opt for a fiberglass ladder when working around electrical hazards like power lines. Paying attention to capacity is also crucial- a 150 pound person can quickly go over a 225 pound limit when carrying materials. Finally, ensure whatever surface you set up your ladder on is level and free of hazards. 

Additional Safety Tips

Using a tool belt is a great way to keep your hands free while climbing and dismounting. Following the rule of three also helps keep you safe: having three contacts on the ladder at all times such as two feet and one hand ensures you stay balanced. Wearing the proper safety equipment is important for the job you’re performing.

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