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Safe use of ladders

February 2011

Did you know that a third of all fall-from-height incidents involve ladders and stepladders ? On average this accounts for 14 deaths and 1200 major injuries to workers each year. Many of these are down to inappropriate or incorrect use of the equipment. These are a few of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to ladders produced by the HSE.


  • Do, make sure your fit for what you want to do 
  • Make sure the ladder is fit for purpose, no damage to the rungs or stiles, clean, secure when extended
  • Think about the position of your ladder, the correct angle 75º, fixed at the bottom on a firm, clear, dry and level surface
  • Only work on the ladder for up to 15 to 30 minutes max, then take a break. 
  • Keep both feet on the same rung/step during the task and also keep three points of contact with the ladder.


  • Don’t overload the ladder, the person and anything they are carrying should not exceed the weight limit stated on the ladder.
  • Over reach or stretch, a guide is to keep your navel inside the stiles of the ladder (the two sides that hold the rungs)
  • Carry anything overly heavy, tools or materials should weigh less than 10kg.
  • Lean the ladder on a fragile surface, for example PVC guttering any glazing or windows.
  • Work off the top three rungs of the ladder; give yourself room for a handhold.

 For the full HSE “Safe use of ladders and step ladders” please click here to download the PDF