Step Ladders 101

March is National Ladder Safety month and quite timely given the little case study in my recent post (  So let’s chat about the type of ladder most likely to be found in homes and apartments everywhere:  step ladders.

Two Step Solutions, step stool, portable stepstool, step chair, fall prevention, preventing falls on ladders, stepladder, prevent falls, ladder safety, home safety, Baby Boomers

Since the experts at the American Ladder Institute have all the data, I have included a link to their website below for your reference.  Here are some of their top tips that stood out to me from my experience performing home safety assessments for persons of all ages as an occupational therapist:

  • Inspect the device before each use: Is it clean?  Do all parts work properly?
  • Use the step ladder fully open and locked on a clean, smooth, hard surface.
  • Place the stool in front of you and never overreach beyond the stool when in use.
  • To protect children, do not leave a step stool set up and unattended.
  • Do not store other materials on the step stool while it is in storage.  Fold it up and put it away.

Further, the person using the step latter must have intact balance, leg strength, climbing, vision, and judgment skills to use this piece of equipment safely.  If any of these requirements cannot be met then consider advising removal of the step ladder from the home.  Falls on stairways and ladders can be the most hazardous places inside or outside a dwelling, even deadly, as compared to any other place in the home.  Preventing injury here is generally non-negotiable when caring for loved ones or even in public places (such as with co-workers!).

If items inside the home can only be accessed with a ladder then offer to help the person living there place personal items within reach.  Look around to see if there are things needing repair and assist in addressing them.  While there could be dozens of reasons why a person would engage in risky behavior involving a step ladder, attempt to problem-solve alternatives that you and your loved one can agree upon together.

Take care and happy National Ladder Safety Month!

Julie, O.T.


From:  Ladders 101:  Choosing the Right Ladder at:

Care of Step Stools can be found in the following standards:

th T

Data you can use


Here’s some data you can use from my industry research.  Let’s call it “Data” and “What to Do” with It:

Data:  From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Research Update

Falls are the most common unintentional injury for persons 35 to over 65 years of age.  The number of falls TRIPLES for persons over age 65.

What to Do with It:  Everyone needs to be mindful of fall risks within your home (the most common location for falls and injuries) and especially proactive for the older adults in your life.  Use information from our Active Tips to guide you in addition to online resources such this checklist from our friends at Rebuilding Together.

Data:  According to a publication of the American Association of Retired Person’s more fatal falls and injuries occur on stairways and this includes step ladders.  Remember that persons 50 and over are in this group!

What to Do with It:  Consider the following from the CDC Portable Ladders Self-Inspection Checklist

Inspect all of the surfaces, moving parts, attachments, feet, etc. before each use.  “Non-slip bases are not intended as a substitute for care in safely placing, lashing, or holding a ladder that is being used.”  Use the right ladder for the intended job and never exceed the weight limits or design constraints of the ladder (for example not standing on the top step when it is not designed for weight-bearing!).  Never place the ladder on a surface other than solid, level ground or flooring. Check if the steps and all surfaces are they free of water, oil, and grease?  “The use of metal ladders should be prohibited wherever they might make contact with energized electrical conductors.”  And see the link above for more . . .

Data:  Generated from the CDC research of the 10 Leading Causes of Nonfatal Unintentional Injury, USA, note the following in a search for persons ages 49 to 65:

  1. Falls
  2. Overexertion
  3. Struck by or against another object
  4. Other causes including motor vehicle accidents and other forms of transportation

What to Do with It:  Please be mindful of your own limitations and ask for help when you need it.  Consider modifying your methods, tools, or equipment from the suggestions noted in our Active Tips including the TSS flagship product.  Be especially mindful of the risk of overexertion during hot and cold weather extremes.  Get competent help when needed even if you must pay for it initially.  Have you heard about

Data:  From the CDC Weekly Report on Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons Aged Over 15 (from Emergency Room data) we find the following.

For all ages, the most hazardous activities were bathing, showering, or getting out of the tub or shower. Approximately two thirds of all injuries occurred in the tub or shower, and approximately half were precipitated by bathing or showering, slipping, or getting out of the tub or shower. Only 2% of injuries occurred while getting into the tub or shower, when bathroom fixtures and floors likely would be less slippery. According to the Home Safety Council’s 2004 The State of Home Safety in America report (7), 63% of U.S. homes used bathtub mats or nonskid strips to help reduce bathtub falls, but only 19% of homes had grab bars. The study described in this report included all settings . . .

What to Do with It also comes succinctly from the CDC Report:

These findings suggest that all adults, especially older adults, their caregivers, and their family members, should be educated about activities in the bathroom that more frequently result in injury, notably getting out of tubs and showers and getting on and off toilets. Injuries might be reduced through environmental modifications, such as putting non-slip strips in the tub or shower and adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower to reduce falls, and installing grab bars next to the toilet for added support if needed. However, more research is needed to determine how effective grab bars and other environmental modifications might be in preventing bathroom injuries. Increasing awareness of potentially hazardous activities in the bathroom, combined with these simple environmental changes, could benefit all household residents by decreasing the risk for injury.

So there you have it:  the data and some intial ideas about what to do with it.  What have you learned from your own experiences?  Please offer constructive tips and suggestions for our readers in the Comments below.

Take care, Julie O.T.