Step Ladders - 10 Best Practice Tips

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A ladder is an extremely useful piece of equipment that, when used correctly, is completely safe. However, many peoples lack the necessary knowledge and training to keep themselves safe when working at height, which is why falls from a ladder account for nearly a quarter of all falls from height accidents that occur each year. 

We have written this guide with our 10 best practice tips for using a ladder safely to keep you safe the next time you use a ladder when working at height. 

Continue reading our blog post to learn about the 10 best practice tips for using a step ladder. 

1. Avoid standing on the top three steps. 

Unless a platform is provided for this purpose, the top three steps of a swingback step or extension ladder should not be stood on. As When you stand on the top three steps of a ladder, your center of gravity shifts upwards, which makes it easier to lose balance and fall. The ladder may also become unstable and tip over, causing serious injuries. 

2. Ensure your step ladder is in a safe condition to use.

Before commencing any task, it is crucial to perform a pre-use inspection to identify any visible defects and ensure that the ladder is safe for use. 

At the beginning of each workday, a pre-use inspection must be conducted to check for changes, such as a ladder being dropped or an area being relocated from a dirty to a clean area (check the state of the feet). 

Inspect the ladder's stiles for any bending or damage that may cause it to buckle or collapse. 

When moving from a soft/dirty surface to a smooth/solid surface, ensure that the ladder's foot material is in contact with the ground rather than dirt, such as soil, chippings, or embedded stones, to avoid tipping over. 

The ladder may collapse if the rungs are crooked, worn, damaged, or missing. If any locking mechanisms are bent or fixings are old or damaged, the ladder may fall, so check for any locking bars in place. 

Inspect the step ladder's platform for cracks or buckles that may cause it to become unstable or collapse. 

Check for contamination or loose fixings on the stairs or treads of stepladders as they may become slippery or fall. 

If any of these flaws are identified during the pre-use inspection, do not use the ladder, and immediately inform your employer. 

3. Apply the 4 in 1 rule

The safety of you and others on a ladder can be greatly influenced by how the ladder is positioned. Before using step ladders, make sure they are fully extended. 

It is critical to remember the 4 to 1 rule when using leaning ladders. Set the ladder at a safe 75-degree angle, which means the distance between the wall and the ladder's bottom should be 14 times the ladder's height. 


While on the ladder, avoid overreaching or leaning too far to the side. This can make the ladder unstable, increasing the risk of a fall. Consider using a taller ladder instead of overreaching, or moving the ladder closer to where you are working to avoid leaning. To maintain stability and balance, follow the belt buckle rule: keep your belt buckle between the ladder's side rails at all times. This will help prevent the ladder from tipping over and keep you safe while working at heights.


When using a ladder near electricity, it is crucial to take additional precautions to ensure safety. Before setting up your ladder, assess the area for any potential electrical hazards. 

Ensure that the ladder you are using is non-conductive, such as a fibreglass ladder, to prevent electric shock. Additionally, maintain a safe distance from power lines, electrical panels, and other electrical equipment. 

If you must work on or near electrical equipment, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as rubber-soled shoes and non-conductive gloves. 

Avoid using metal tools or equipment while on the ladder near electricity, as they can conduct electricity and cause electric shock or electrocution. Always stay aware of your surroundings and take extra precautions to ensure your safety when working on or near electrical equipment while on a ladder. 

6. Avoid using step ladders in bad weather. 

It is crucial to avoid using step ladders in bad weather to ensure your safety. Rain, snow, or strong winds can make the ladder and the ground slippery, causing the ladder to become unstable and increasing the risk of a fall. 

If you must use a ladder in bad weather, ensure that the ladder is on level ground and stable, and take extra precautions to maintain a secure grip while climbing. Consider using a ladder with wider footing and extra stabilizers for increased stability in adverse weather conditions. 

It is always better to postpone ladder use until the weather clears up, especially during severe weather conditions such as thunderstorms, hurricanes, or high winds. Safety should always be the top priority when using a ladder, and avoiding the use of step ladders in bad weather is an essential step in ensuring your well-being. 

7. Never use your step ladder as a work platform. 

Step ladders are not designed to be used horizontally for walking across and doing so can be extremely dangerous. Instead, step ladders should be used in their intended vertical position for tasks such as reaching high places or changing light bulbs. 

If a stable surface is needed for standing or working, it is essential to use a proper work platform that is specifically designed for the task at hand. Work platforms come in a variety of sizes and configurations and provide a stable and secure surface that can support the weight of a person and their tools. 

Using a work platform instead of a step ladder as a horizontal surface for walking or working is crucial for ensuring safety and preventing accidents. Remember to always use the appropriate equipment for the task at hand, and never use a step ladder as a horizontal work surface.

8. One step ladder, one user. 

When using a step ladder, it is essential that only one person uses the ladder at a time. Having multiple people on a ladder can cause it to become unstable, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. 

Even if the ladder seems stable enough to support multiple people, it is important to remember that step ladders are designed for a single user. When multiple people use a step ladder simultaneously, the weight distribution can become uneven, causing the ladder to tip over or become unbalanced. 

To ensure safety, always use step ladders as intended, with only one user on the ladder at a time. If multiple people need to work at height, consider using a different type of ladder or work platform that is designed for multiple users. Remember, safety should always come first when working at heights, and taking shortcuts can lead to serious accidents and injuries. 

9. Always use step ladders on a firm surface. 

The stability of your ladder is determined by the stability of the surfaces it rests on. The surfaces must be level and strong enough to support the ladder while in use. 

For stepladders, this is the ground or platform beneath the ladder's foot. When it comes to leaning ladders, you must consider the stability of both the ground and whatever it is resting on at or near the top. Initially, the ladder may be supported by gutters, branches, glass, and other fragile surfaces. What about a person's weight as they progress up the ladder? Will those surfaces be strong enough and secure enough? 

10. Check the maximum weight.  

EN131 classified step ladders can accept up to 150 kg. 

It is crucial to know the maximum weight limit of your ladder before using it. Exceeding the weight limit can cause the ladder to become unstable, resulting in accidents or injuries. 

Check the manufacturer's instructions or labeling on the ladder to determine the maximum weight capacity. Consider your weight, along with the weight of any tools or materials you will be carrying while on the ladder, to ensure you do not exceed the limit. 

If you need to carry heavy items while on the ladder, consider using a tool belt or hoist instead of carrying them by hand. Always prioritize safety and avoid exceeding the weight limit of your ladder. 

If you have any questions regarding how to use your step ladder safely or any other working at height queries our ladder expert team will be happy to help you can email us at or give us a call on 01204 590 232.

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