A fall from a height of one to two metres can be enough to cause serious injuries, such as fractured limbs, spinal cord damage, severe brain injury or even death. Over the five years to 2006, at least 83 Australians, mainly men, died after falling from a ladder, and thousands more have been seriously injured, according to the ACCC. Men at or nearing retirement age are in the highest risk category for accidents involving a fall from a ladder.
To maximise your safety when using a stepladder at home:
- Read and follow the ladder’s safety instructions, and don’t stand higher up than is recommended.
- Check it’s undamaged, clean and dry before use.
- Place it on a firm and level surface that’s dry and not slippery; never try to extend it by balancing it on boxes, bricks or other unstable bases.
- Never use it folded leaning against a wall.
- Don’t use it in front of a door that someone could open onto it.
- Open the ladder fully and make sure all joints and spreaders are locked firmly in place.
- Don’t load it beyond its rating.
- Don’t use it as a scaffold support.
- Climb up and down facing the ladder, and don’t reach out too far while on it.
- Always keep at least one hand (preferably both) on the ladder when ascending or descending.
- Don’t carry a load that needs both your hands, or is heavy enough to unbalance you, up or down a ladder.
- Don’t use a metal ladder for electrical work.
- Wear shoes with a good grip on the soles to avoid slipping.
- Store it in a dry, ventilated place to prevent rust and rot.