1. Check the quality

Before using any ladder, inspect it to make sure it's in good working condition. The ladder you choose must be the correct size for the job. Ladders with loose or missing parts should be rejected, as well as any that sway or lean to one side.

2. Always read safety labels

The on-product safety information is specific to that particular type ladder, and you're not considered qualified to use the ladder until you've reviewed the details. Also, the duty rating of the ladder must be greater than the total weight of the climber, all tools, supplies and any other objects placed on the ladder.

3. Know your sole

The American Ladder Institute cautions you to wear the proper shoes. Shoes with leather soles aren't appropriate, because they're not considered sufficiently slip-resistant. Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.

4. Remain in control

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, you should maintain a three-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing. Center your body on the ladder and keep your belt buckle between the rails while maintaining a firm grip. Take each rung slowly and deliberately. Never try to move a ladder while standing on it.

5. Use a tool belt

Or have a helper pass materials, so that your hands are free when climbing. Also, avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment, and be sure all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.

6. Be reasonable

Don't stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder. Never place a ladder on boxes or any unstable bases to obtain more height. Avoid any sudden movement or distractions, and make sure not to overreach or lean while you're working. Also, if you feel tired or dizzy, or if you're inclined to lose your balance, don't use a ladder.