The Safe Use of Ladders (Safework NSW) Video

Portable ladders continue to be one of the biggest causes of falls, not only in the workplace, but also around the home. Even a fall from a relatively low height can result in a severe injury so it is important that when using ladders you are mindful of the below:

  • Portable ladders should only be used for simple access and work of a short duration. Ideally do most of the work at ground level where possible.
  • If the work has to be carried out at height, consider if there are safer alternative options such as EWPs (Elevated Work Platforms) or scaffolding.
  • Choose the appropriate ladder for the job.
  • Always inspect the ladder for any damage or deterioration prior to any use, every time.
  • Check that your workers are physically capable of using a ladder considering their age and health.
  • Only use portable ladders on flat surfaces and never take bulky or heavy items up and down the ladder.
  • Never exceed the working load limit specified on the ladder. This includes the person using it and any items that they may carry with them.
  • If using an extension ladder secure it at the top or bottom or both ends to stop any slippage.
  • Always climb down remain facing the ladder. Climb all the way down to the last step before stepping off.
  • Ensure that you always maintain three points of contact.
  • Never lean or reach away from the ladder.

For more information on prevention of falls see these publications:


Each year we investigate around 100 serious incidents where workers have fallen from ladders.

Most of these incidences have involved the ladder being used incorrectly or inappropriately. Workers have suffered dislocations, broken bones, severe lacerations and head injuries. In some cases workers have died.

People working in construction, retail and building maintenance are most commonly injured however any worker using a ladder is at risk. If you work with ladders keep your people safe.

Workers should only use ladders for simple access or for work that is short in duration. It’s best to do most of the work at ground level whenever possible. If you can’t consider alternatives to a ladder such a scaffolding. You could also use an elevated work platform such as a scissor lift, a boom or a knuckle boom. If a ladder is your only option choose the right one. It should be designed for the work you do. An A-frame or an extension ladder maybe appropriate for most tasks but a platform ladder could be safer.

Once you’ve chosen the right ladder for your work make sure you inspect for damage every time you use it. Workers who are using a ladder should be physically capable of doing so. Their age and general health should be taken into account.

A ladder should only be used on a flat stable surface. On take small items up or down a ladder, never large or bulky items such as building materials. The combined weight of these items and the person using the ladder should not exceed the working load limit of the ladder.

A-frame ladders should always be set up in the fully open position. If you’re using an extension ladder secure it at the top or the bottom or even at both ends to stop it slipping. The distance between the base of the extension ladder and the structure it is being supported by should be 1 metre for every 4 metres of ladder height. If you’re using an A-frame ladder do not climb or work past the second last rung. When climbing down remain facing the ladder and climb all the way down to the last step before you step off.

Always maintain three points of contact. Never lean or reach away from the ladder while using it.

Work safe. Home safe.