The fruit picking industry uses bow ladders so that workers can reach and pick fruit from tree canopies.

The correct positioning and use of bow ladders by workers picking fruit can minimise or avoid falls that result in injuries requiring hospital treatment and/or time away from work.

Risk control measures

To position and use your bow ladder safely:

  • carry the ladder using two hands, one on a lower rung with the other on a higher rung, holding the ladder close to the side of your body
  • inspect the area of the tree where the ladder is to be placed to ensure there are no broken tree limbs which may cause the ladder to fall
  • position the ladder at a ratio of 1 in 4, or an angle of approximately 15-20 degrees, from the tree canopy, with the inside curve of the ladder facing the tree
  • ensure the spikes of the ladder are firmly in the ground
  • test the ladder to ensure its stability
  • only stand on the lower rungs and not on or above the red rung (generally, the third rung from the top)
  • move the ladder to access fruit around the tree so that you do not have to over-reach
  • maintain three points of contact while on the ladder.

The following photographs show how to best position bow ladders to maximise safety and minimise the risk of falls.

Man showing the correct way to carry a bow ladder
The correct way to carry the ladder
Man showing the correct way to position a bow ladder
Correct positioning of a bow ladder
Man displaying the incorrect method of picking fruit whilst using a bow ladder.
An incorrect method of picking fruit
Close up showing the spikes of the bow ladder are firmly in the ground.
Ensure that the spikes of the ladder are firmly in the ground

In image 3, while the ladder is correctly positioned against the tree, the worker is over-reaching to the adjacent tree. The correct method is to move the ladder, negating the need to over-reach. Workers should not stand on or above the red rung indicated on the ladder, generally the third rung from the top.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has produced a video showing the correct use of bow ladders for the fruit picking industry.

Page last updated 21 February 2020