To help prevent falls, keep this rule in mind whether climbing on ladders, equipment or vehicles.

Man climbing a ladder

Climbing on ladders is a routine part of the job for many people. Yet workers often suffer injuries when they don’t ascend or descend properly.

Anyone who has ever suffered an injury by falling from a ladder, slipping off equipment or jumping out of a truck can tell you it doesn’t require much height to get hurt.

In fact, improper ladder use accounts for one out of every four injuries to people who use ladders, drive trucks or operate equipment as part of their normal job duties.

Three points of contact rule

The three points of contact rule is simple. When climbing or descending ladders, trucks and equipment, always maintain contact with one hand and two feet, or two hands and one foot.

If you maintain three points of contact while you climb, you can limit your exposure to slips and falls.


When climbing a ladder, you must have both hands free and face the ladder. This allows for three points of contact with the ladder at all times and reduces the chances of falling.

Position the ladder so it is:

  • Not blocking any paths, exits or doors
  • On level, solid footing
  • Against a stable structure
  • Set up at a 4:1 angle
  • Extended at least three feet above the surface to be accessed
  • Secured at the top and bottom

When using the ladder:

  • Don’t let your belt buckle pass beyond either ladder side rail
  • Hold the ladder with one hand while working with the other
  • Don’t hurry or skip rungs/steps

Vehicles and equipment

Before you lift a leg to climb or descend a vehicle or piece of equipment:

  • Firmly grasp the points of contact with both hands.
  • Climb on and off only when the vehicle or equipment is stationary.
  • Always mount and dismount facing the vehicle or equipment.
  • Use the points of contact designed by the manufacturer to mount and dismount. Points of contact may include steps, running boards, traction strips, footholds and hand grips.
  • Don’t use wheel hubs, machine tracks or door handles for mounting and dismounting.
  • Make sure both feet are firmly planted on the ground before you let go.
  • Break three-point contact only when you reach the ground, the cab or a stable platform.
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