How to Set up an Extension Ladder Safely

How to Set up an Extension Ladder Safely

30th June 2015

With the weather here in the UK looking bright and sunny for some time to come, many of us will be attending to outdoor jobs to spruce up our outdoor spaces for the summer holidays. If you’re planning on doing any cleaning or maintenance work that involves the use of extension ladders, then use our handy guide to ensure that risks are kept to a minimum. Using ladders always involves a certain degree of risk, so planning the job properly beforehand and making sure you use the ladders safely and correctly is essential if you want to avoid a trip to your local Accident and Emergency Centre this summer.


You need to set your ladder at the correct angle – this is one of the most important steps in setting up the ladder. If it’s too steep it may tip over backwards, while if there is too much of an angle, the ladder could bend or the bottom could slide away. Put your toes up against the feet of the ladder, stand straight and extend your arms. Your palms should just reach the rungs of the ladder.


To make sure that the ladder can’t slip backwards, you can screw a piece of 2 x 4 to the deck. If you’re working on soft ground, then flip up the ladder shoes so that the spurs of the ladder poke into the ground. Before setting up the ladder, clean the bottom of the ladder feet and make sure that the surface they rest on is free of any dust, grit, oil or grease.


You need to make sure the top of the ladder cannot slide when the rails are resting against the wall. Make sure first that the ladder is vertical and that the top rests on an even surface. For added safety, you can use a ladder stabiliser which is usually bolted onto the top rung. This will not only protect the surface you lean the ladder against from damage, it will also help spread the load and can span window openings.


Secure the top of the ladder to prevent it from sliding – this is especially important if you’re planning to step to and from the roof. Ties will stop the ladder from sliding sideways. You can make yourself a handy piece of kit for tying off the ladder by screwing two eye screws into a piece of 2 x 4 which can then be screwed into the fascia board - don’t forget to keep this for future use.


Even if the ladder has been set at the correct angle, it may still tip sideways if the feet are not level with each other and resting on a solid surface. Don’t be tempted to stack bricks or boards under the feet of the ladder to level it – this is just inviting an accident. If the ground is soft enough, scrape out a shallow trench underneath the high side foot (you can do this with the claw end of a claw hammer).