"I was working on a roof surface one day, and the only way to get up and down was using a ladder. I had to get some tools up to the roof, so I packed them into my tool bag, and put them over my shoulder. I didn’t want to take two trips, but couldn’t fit it all in my pack. So I decided to carry what was left of the material so I wouldn’t have to make two trips. I was nearly at the top of the ladder when I missed the next rung and slipped. With only one hand on the ladder, I scrambled to get back onto the ladder. I almost didn’t make it back on and would’ve fallen over 10 feet to the ground. I guess I learned why they say never to carry things in your hands when going up a ladder." - Jason (age 47) Painter

Most companies have a policy surrounding 3-point contact, but it is often not enforced. Refresh your knowledge of what using 3 points of contact means, and why you should observe this rule always.

3-Point Contact

This work-safe rule can be summed up as maintaining three points of bodily contact with a surface when climbing on a ladder, scaffold, or onto machinery. Any time a worker is moving vertically along a piece of equipment or on a ladder or scaffold, three points of contact must be maintained for optimal safety. What this means is that either both hands and one foot, or both feet and one hand must maintain contact with the surface at all times. This means climbing slowly and methodically, moving one limb at a time, to ensure that there are always three points of contact. When three points of contact are maintained, the individual’s centre of gravity is controlled and centered. When three points of contact are not maintained, the centre of gravity shifts, the base of support is decreased, and can result in the individual becoming off balance, which increases the risk for a fall.

Maintaining three points of contact does not necessarily mean that slips and falls will not occur. However, if an individual maintains three points of contact, when a slip or trip occurs, the damage can be mitigated because the individual is more likely to be able to grab hold of the surface they are climbing. Additionally, when the force resulting from a slip or fall is applied to a body through three points of contact rather than two or fewer, the strain of impact is lessened.

To ensure you always observe three points of contact take multiple trips if you are hauling tools or material to a higher or lower work surface. Alternatively, use a pulley system to raise or lower the tools and material needed.

Quick Tips

  • Keep steps and rungs clear of debris, snow, mud and ice

  • Report rung and step damage to a supervisor immediately

  • Wear slip resistant footwear with a good tread

  • Ascend and descend slowly

  • Be sure you have a firm grip on the rails before taking the next step

  • Never jump to the ground. You may jump onto an uneven ground surface