Home ladders typically carry a label that indicates how much weight they can support. Since you can't always predict who will be using your ladder, we recommend one with a maximum weight rating of 300 pounds (Type 1A). We think the added safety margin is worth any extra cost and weight.
Buy the right ladder for the job
Choose the right design and height for the work you do. And try before you buy. With stepladders, climb three steps and carefully shift your weight. The ladder shouldn't deform, tilt, or "walk." Check a multiuse model at the store to see how easy it is to adjust and lock--and ask if you can return it if it proves more challenging than you thought.
Follow the directions
Even a ladder that's rated to hold 300 pounds can fail if you don't set it up and use it properly. Read the manufacturer's directions and safety information carefully and be sure you understand them before you start climbing. For additional safety advice, see Steps to ladder safety.
The American Ladder Institute, the industry's major trade group, has attributed ladder injuries mostly to misuse and improper selection. But shoddy design and construction may add significantly to those injuries, judging by some of the testing we've done in our labs.
For example, steps on some 6-foot stepladders--the most popular type--bent under a higher-weight version of the industry's step-strength test we used to account for the stresses of climbing and weight-shifting. And we found that even the most stable stepladders twisted enough for their feet to "walk" slightly when we stood on them and simulated the weight shifting typical when painting or sanding. Some telescoping and multi-use ladders could also crush hands and fingers, and had feet that slid out easily.
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