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How To Use A Step Ladder Safely On Uneven Surfaces

Brandon Carter
  May 30, 2023 8:18 PM

It is not easy to work with ladders on uneven ground. We always recommend using a ladder on the ground where possible, but we understand that sometimes this is not an option.

Step ladders tend to be more stable on uneven ground than step tools because they have four points of contact with the floor instead of two. If you have to choose between these two types of ladders, step ladders will be the safer choice, and step ladders will help you use all types of ladders safely on uneven ground.

1. Choose The Right Step Ladder

Step ladders are usually made from wood, fiberglass, or aluminum. Aluminum step ladders are light and easy to move but should not be used when working with electricity. Wooden ladders are mainly used indoors in dry conditions. The ladder has a duty rating (usually found on the label) for maximum weight. The maximum load of the ladder must be greater than the total weight of the user.

5 Step Ladder

5 Step Ladder

Source: Amazon

Calculate the weight by adding up your weight, the weight of the clothing, and any other tools or items that will be carried or placed on the ladder. Do not allow two people to climb the ladder at the same time.

Some specialized ladders have tiers on both sides of the ladder and higher duty ratings, so two people can work at the same time. Remember to identify the highest step ladder you need.

2. How to Use Step Ladders on Uneven Surfaces

Soft Ground

  1. Dig the soil with a shovel to make it as flat as possible. Dig the high and fill the low with the soil of the high.

  2. Place a 12-inch square board over the leveled area to increase stability for the steps. The plank is needed to keep the bottom of the ladder from sinking into soft ground.

  3. Call someone to hold the ladder while you climb, shifting your weight from one foot to the other. This weight shift will ensure that the ladder stays stable. If the ladder tilts or slides more than an inch, climb down the ladder immediately and level the ground beneath the board.

Hard Ground

  1. Place the step ladder on the ground and lean on the structure you will climb. If it's an A-frame ladder, prop it to the ground and let the legs stand as they please.

  2. Look for any feet that don't touch the ground.

  3. Slide the ladder stopper under the feet of the hanging legs until the stopper makes contact with the legs. Chock is a wedge-shaped piece of wood.

  4. Step onto the step ladder's first rung and move your weight back and forth to test leg stability. If it wobbles, get down the ladder and reposition the pads. Repeat this process until the ladder is completely stable.

  5. Have someone hold the ladder while you climb for extra safety and to avoid accidental falls.


Do not climb ladders with uneven feet. Serious injury or death can occur if the ladder falls while you are on it. If your ladder has a foot extension, make sure the locking mechanism is in place before climbing the ladder.

Do Not Let The Step Ladder Legs Limp

Do Not Let The Step Ladder Legs Limp

Source: Pinterest

3. Step Ladder Safety Tips

  • Step ladders are ideal for quick jobs. For example, consider an alternative method if you need to work at a height for more than half an hour.

  • Inspect your step ladder before use to make sure there are no signs of damage.

  • Make sure all ladder feet are firmly on the ground and keep them in contact with the ground at all times.

  • Make sure the ladder is fully opened, and the locking mechanism is engaged.

  • Do not exceed the maximum load limit of the ladder. Remember, your body weight doesn't matter - avoid heavy lifting when using a ladder.

  • If possible, position the ladder so that you are straight and facing your work position rather than turning and working to the side.

  • Instead of stretching to reach for something, get down and reposition the ladder as needed.

  • Always keep three points of contact with the step ladder - ideally two feet and one hand.

  • If you need both hands free to work, keep both feet on the same top step of the ladder and use the ladder to support your knees or chest as a third point of contact.

  • If your job may push the stepladder to the side (e.g., drilling tilted into a solid wall), it may be necessary to tie the ladder to increase stability. See How to keep your ladder from slipping for more advice.

Three Step Ladder (Small Step Ladder)

Three Step Ladder (Small Step Ladder)

Source: Pinterest

Your goal when using a ladder - or any other type of ladder, for that matter - should be to keep the risk to a minimum. Do not climb higher than necessary, make sure the ladder is as stable as possible, and always keep your feet firmly on the ladder.

4. Check Before Use

As with any ladder, it is essential that you conduct a pre-use inspection to ensure your safety. You should conduct a pre-use test whenever your circumstances change – for example, at the beginning of each day and after moving a ladder.

Instructions for checking before use

  • Check that the piles are not bent or damaged

  • Check if the step ladder pins are in good condition and contact with the ground

  • Check if the steps are bent, worn, missing, or loose

  • Inspect locking mechanisms and their fixings – they should not be damaged, bent, or worn.

All four of these checks need to be passed. As long as one of these checks fails, the ladder will not be safe to use.


Safety when using step ladders is paramount if we are to get any job done by using them properly.

Always instill these safety procedures when using step ladder to prevent unwanted mishaps. Thanks for reading our article!

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