10 ladder safety best practices to review


August 23, 2021

Dr. Stuart Mitchell

Dr. Stuart Mitchell, BCE, Technical Director, PestWest USA

The next time you find yourself on a ladder inspecting an insect light trap (ILT) for fly control or some similar task, consider the last time you and your team really reviewed ladder safety best practices, such as the following:

  • Choose the correct ladder for the job. It should be tall enough for the job so that you do not have to stand on the top two steps.
  • Follow any cautions listed on the ladder placard.
  • Inspect the ladder for defects before use.
  • Ensure all movable parts on the ladder work smoothly.
  • Ensure the feet of the ladder (and you and your shoes, for that matter) are free of gravel, debris or other hazards.
  • Never place a ladder on boxes, barrels, or unstable or slippery bases. Always tie a straight ladder off whenever possible, to prevent side-to-side movement.
  • When placing a straight ladder, use the 4:1 rule: for every 4 feet up, place 1 foot out.
  • A straight ladder should extend 3 feet above the top surface for hand support.
  • To maintain your center of gravity on the ladder, follow the “belt buckle rule”: Keep your belt buckle (and thus, you) centered between the two ladder rails.
  • Ascend and descend the ladder maintaining three-point-contact — either two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand.
  • Do not use a ladder near doors, exceed the maximum weight capacity, or use a metal ladder when working with electricity. These should be givens, but you would be surprised.


About the Author

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MITCHELL, D.O., DVM, PsyD, BCE, is technical director of PestWest, and a frequent contributor to PMP.

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