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Holiday Decorating: Ladder Safety

The holidays are fast approaching, and lights, wreaths and other festive pieces are quickly becoming more apparent. When decorating your facility, it is important to consider ladder safety. Injuries that occur when using ladders often happen to employees or volunteers who are unfamiliar with the equipment. Being educated on ladder safety can help protect the organization and lead to safe holiday decorating.

Ladder Selection

There are three main types of ladders available: stepladders, straight (single) ladders and extension ladders. Stepladders are non-adjustable in length and should be used at low and medium heights. Single ladders are non-adjustable and can reach higher heights, while extension ladders, which are adjustable, should be used for high elevations, such as windows or roofs. It is always a good idea to use a ladder that is longer than what is required to be reached.

All ladders have ratings, ranging from Type IAA to Type III, that are based on weight and use. Be sure to check the rating of a ladder before using. Type III ladders should not be used, as they are considered a light duty household type. Instead, use a Type II or higher. In addition, ladders without any rating should be replaced.

Type Weight Rating (in pounds) Duty Rating
Type IAA 375 Super Heavy Duty
Type IA 300 Extra Heavy Duty
Type I 250 Heavy Duty Industrial
Type II 225 Medium Duty Commercial
Type III 200 Light Duty Household

Beyond selecting a ladder with the appropriate rating, it is important to use a ladder that is in good physical condition. Inspect ladders for the following faults:

  • Loose or missing rungs, cleats or bracing
  • Loose nails, bolts or screws
  • Cracked, broken, split, dented or badly worn rungs, cleats or side rails
  • Wood splinters
  • Corrosion of metal ladders or metal parts
  • Missing or damaged side rails or foot pads


Even if the proper ladder is being used, the employees or volunteers using them will always be at risk of injury, especially if they are not properly trained and educated on ladder safety. It is important that those using the ladder have the ability to recognize the potential hazards. Consider the following when training employees or volunteers:

  • Follow the ladder manufacturer's safety instructions.
  • Use ladders only for their designed purpose.
  • Do not load ladders beyond their maximum intended load-carrying capacities.
  • Avoid electrical hazards by looking for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Never use a metal ladder around power lines or electrical equipment.
  • Inspect the ladder before using it. If the ladder is damaged, it should be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
  • Do not move, shift or extend ladders while in use.
  • Always face the ladder when moving up or down and use the “three point rule:" of your two hands and two feet, keep at least three in contact with the ladder at all times.
  • Do not carry objects or loads that could cause loss of balance and falls.
  • Work in pairs when using a ladder. Someone should be available to hold the ladder in position while the other person is on it.

Decorating the facility for the holidays is a tradition that brings joy to all who visit. When preparing to decorate, keep ladder safety in mind. Choosing the appropriate ladder and educating users can help keep decorating safe and enjoyable. 

© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.