4-to-1 Rule & 3 Points-of-Contact: A Guide to Ladder Safety

If you followed the Olympics, you may be familiar with the touching story of US gymnastics team member, Suni Lee’s, father John Lee. In August of 2019, Mr. Lee suffered a tragic accident, falling from a ladder while trimming a tree. The incident resulted in a spinal cord injury that has left him paralyzed from the chest down. In the midst of his struggles, Mr. Lee continued to be an inspiration and source of strength as his daughter pursued her dreams as an Olympic athlete. While we don’t know details specific to Mr. Lee’s incident, their story is an opportunity for us to increase awareness on the grave importance of ladder safety.

Over half a million people are treated for ladder-related falls and over 300 people die from falls each year, so the focus on safety cannot be overstated. Here are our safety guidelines to minimize your risks as you climb.

The 4-to-1 Rule

A ladder safety standard, the 4-to-1 rule state that the ladder should be 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet the ladder rises. This allows for maximum stability. So, for instance, if the ladder touches the wall 8 feet off the ground, the base of the ladder should be 2 feet away from the wall.

Three Points-of-Contact

The way you climb or descend a ladder makes a difference in reducing the risk in falls. The 3 points-of-contact is a method where the climber faces the center of the ladder and has either two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet on the ladder at all times. This provides a safe stance in the case one limb loses contact with the ladder.

DO’s & DO NOT’s

  • DO ensure the ladder is on stable ground. DO NOT place ladders on muddy areas or prop on other surfaces (like a box or crate) to try to increase height.
  • DO extend a ladder 3 feet higher than a roof, if you are climbing onto the roof. DO NOT climb a ladder higher than two steps down from the top. NEVER stand on the top rung of a ladder.
  • DO inspect your shoes before climbing to make sure they are clean and not a slip risk. DO NOT climb in flip-flops or sandals, or pants long enough to be a trip hazard.
  • DO place the ladder so it is in reach of the work you need to do. DO NOT overreach or overextend your body past the side rails of the ladder.
  • DO make sure someone is nearby to spot you while you are on the ladder. DO NOT have more than one person on a ladder at any time. NEVER engage in horseplay on a ladder.
  • Most importantly – If you for any reason feel uncomfortable on the ladder, DO NOT climb. It’s not worth risking serious injury.  

We hope that you will take these safety guidelines into action whenever you are working with a ladder. The specialist at NEOSM urge you to prevent unnecessary injuries. Should you need our help, contact us for more information.