(1) Check that the ladder is leaning at a safe angle by standing with your toes touching the side rails and by grabbing the rung at shoulder height. If your arms are full extended and roughly parallel to the ground, the ladder is pitched properly, says Jeff Inks, executive director of the American Ladder Institute.
(2) Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder as you climb. "That can be two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot," says Inks. "And, yes, it means always carrying your tools and supplies in an apron or on a belt—not in your hands."
(3) Do not overextend your ladder. A 32-foot ladder needs at least 3 feet of overlap. Longer ladders need up to 6 feet. Check your ladder's label for details.
(4) Never stand on a rung that's less than 3 feet from the top.