Properly Stabilizing a Ladder before Use

One of the most common pieces of equipment in use on building and construction sites is ladders and unfortunately because of its extensive use many people become complacent when it comes to ladder safety. This is particularly concerning because falls are such a common cause of injury and fatalities on work sites  in general and especially in the construction industry that certain controls are necessary to ensure workers aren’t unnecessarily at risk.

According to a recent article on the Safety Blog falls from ladders account for at least 43 per cent of all fall fatalities. It is obvious that safe ladder use is therefore something  that needs to be taught to workers, rather than just assuming that workers will use their common sense. Even if workers don’t recognise the importance of ladder safety training, employers have a duty to ensure that they receive the necessary training and supervision when conducting work from heights using ladders.

As the writer of the Simplified Safety blog explains, workers incorrectly assume that working with a ladder is as simple as putting it up, climbing it and climbing down once done – unfortunately this is not the case.

Utilising a ladder placed at an incorrect angle, one that is not properly secured or set on an unfirm or unlevelled surface are all bad ladder practices. Often workers make simple mistakes such as using ladders that are too short, broken or damaged, lashed together or a closed A-Frame- all ofwhich can prove fatal. That is why many construction companies actually prefer workers to use lifts or scaffolds rather than ladders in many cases.

The article’s writer goes on to explain how a ladder should be stabilized before use, making sure there is no room for lateral movement. Stabilizing a ladder is done by securing it from the bottom upwards.

According to the post, each time a ladder is used it should first be inspected. The ladder should be in proper working condition and there should be not broken or bent rungs. The ladder should also be kept clean, clear of any grease or substances that can cause slipping or falls to occur.

The post then goes on to describe the next steps to follow and issues to consider:

stabilize-ladder_thumbThe Base


Where are you setting up your ladder? The answer should be “on a firm, level surface*”, but that’s often not the case. Ladders get set up in mud puddles, mulch beds, or areas that have recently been dug up. Other times, ladders get set up on smooth surfaces like waxed floors and don’t have safety feet in proper working condition to keep them from slipping out from under the worker. If you’re not going to set up your ladder on a firm, level surface, you shouldn’t set up your ladder, period. This does not mean that you should grab a couple of cinder blocks and throw them in the mud to build a base, because, while this may be firm and level, it is not stable.


So, let’s say you’ve found the perfect place – firm, level, AND stable (and the safety feet are in place). You’ve set the ladder at the proper 4:1 ratio (if it’s a straight/extension ladder, otherwise you’ve fully opened and locked you’re a-frame). You’re good to go, right? Well, that depends (and isn’t that always the case?). Your next step is to look at what’s around the base of your ladder. Is there debris, material, tools, hoses, cords, or anything else that could pose a tripping hazard?



The post then goes on to explain how the top of the ladder should be secured. Most lateral movement that can cause a fall usually comes from the top of ladder. Sadly securing the top of the ladder is usually ignored and this often results in falls.

The writer suggests using the ladders own lanyard to secure the top by either tying something to the bottom or the middle of the ladder. The top of the ladder should be attached to the structure being climbed by tying it with rope or wire. The writer suggests using attached hooks or similar means.

There is also a ladder stabilizer which can be used if the above means is not possible. The device attaches to the ladder and makes the contact area of the ladder wider, thereby stabilising it.

Read more about Securing Ladders at