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Ladder Safety

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Ladder Safety Online Program

Ladders are a simple and common tool used in most workplaces; however, they can pose a hazard if used inappropriately or incorrectly. Falls from ladders account for 20 percent of all fatal and lost work-day injuries in general industry. Departments and supervisors must make sure that ladders are in good condition and used properly by employees.


Ladders shall not be loaded beyond the maximum intended load, which includes the total load (weight and force) of the employee and all tools, equipment, and materials being carried. Always purchase and use the portable extension and step ladders that are rated for at least "heavy-duty" use. Note: Mobile ladder stands and platforms shall be capable of supporting at least four times their maximum intended load.

General requirements for all ladders

Information is available on OSHA's website. Refer to section 1910.23(b).

Portable and fixed ladder requirements

Minimum design requirements established by OSHA can be reviewed on OSHA's website. Refer to section 1910.23(c) for portable ladders and 1910.23(d) for fixed ladders.

Where fixed ladders are more than 24 feet above a lower level, means of fall protection must be provided. For more information, go to OSHA's website and refer to section 1910.28(b)(9).

Step bolts and manhole steps

Minimum design requirements established by OSHA can be reviewed on the OSHA website. Refer to section 1910.24.


Minimum design requirements established by OSHA can be reviewed on the OSHA website. Refer to section 1910.26.

Ladders must be inspected by a competent person on a periodic basis and after any occurrence that could affect the structural integrity.

If the ladder is found to be questionable or defective, it should be marked or tagged as "Do Not Use," and must be removed from service until properly repaired or replaced.

Refer to the manufacturer's instructions on inspection criteria, or look for damage, such as:

  • Structural defects, such as bent or missing components of the frame;
  • Broken, loose, or missing rungs, cleats, or steps;
  • Broken, cracked, or split rails, uprights, braces, or rungs;
  • Loose nails, screws, bolts, or other metal parts;
  • Corroded components;
  • Excessive rust; and
  • Any other faulty or defective component, such as missing fasteners, defective locking devices, loose hinges, etc.
  1. Select a ladder that is the proper length for the job.
  2. Ladders may only be used on stable and level surfaces unless secured to prevent accidental displacement or movement.
  3. Ladders may not be used on slippery surfaces, such as wet concrete floors or muddy ground unless they are secured or slip-resistant feet provide adequate protection.
  4. Ladders should not be placed in any location where they can be displaced or bumped by workplace activities or traffic, such as passageways, doorways, or driveways. Secure the ladder to prevent such accidents or barricade the area to keep activities and traffic away from the ladder.
  5. The access area around the top and bottom of the ladder must be kept clear of scrap materials and debris.
  6. When ladders are used to access an upper landing surface, such as a roof or mezzanine, the ladder rails must extend at least three feet above the upper landing to provide adequate handholds.
  7. Ladders must be free from oil, grease, mud, and other slippery materials.
  8. Ladders may not be loaded beyond the maximum intended load for which they were built, nor beyond the manufacturer's rated capacity. Estimate 250 pounds per person, plus any tools, equipment, and materials that will be in use while on the ladder.
  9. Ladders may only be used for the purpose, and in the manner, for which they were designed. For example, most ladders are not designed to be used in a horizontal position (i.e. used as a walkboard or platform). Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for more information.
  10. When climbing up or down the ladder, always face the ladder and maintain at least three points of contact, such as two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand. Hands should be free for climbing, and not holding tools and materials. Use a rope and bucket to pull items up or have someone hand them up.
  11. Do not stand on the top two rungs of a stepladder. The stability is decreased when weight is concentrated at the top of the ladder. If a taller or longer ladder is needed to perform the job safely, make arrangements to have it available before work begins.
  12. Metal ladders must never be used near electrical equipment. Fiberglass ladders are designed to provide adequate protection from electrical hazards.
  13. Ladders may not be altered or spliced in any manner.
  14. Ladders may not be moved, shifted, or extended while a person is on the ladder. Climb down, make the adjustment, and climb back up.
  15. Extension ladders must be placed at the proper angle. Use a 4:1 ratio for setting ladders (approximately 75 degrees) - for every four feet in height, the base of the ladder should be moved one foot out from the wall or structure. For example, a 20-foot ladder should be placed about five feet from the base of the wall you will be accessing.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. Step ladders are designed to be opened into an A-frame manner, with the spreader or braces in a locked position. Also, the feet of step ladders typically do not make good contact with the floor when not fully extended and set up as intended.

Yes and no. OSHA regulations do not require ANSI approval, however, ladders manufactured in compliance with ANSI A14 are considered to be in compliance with OSHA regulations. If a ladder is ANSI-approved, it is in compliance with OSHA design requirements.

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes. Persons who climb ladders that incorporate ladder safety devices (e.g., fall protection) must attend this training. It is recommended that all personnel who use general-purpose ladders also attend this training (or the supervisor must assure the employee knows how to use this equipment safely).

Class length: 1 hour.

Available online: Yes.

When is refresher training required? Every 5 years.

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Regardless of who owns the equipment or tools used by an employee while on the job, it must be in good condition and in proper working order. Good condition would also include any required safety features of the equipment/tool. Departments permitting employee-owned equipment/tools to be used while on the job are responsible for ensuring it is safe. If the person is injured while on the job because of defective, improper, or sub-standard equipment, it is still work-related. It is our goal, and everyone's obligation, to reduce hazardous conditions in the workplace.

Type IAA ladders are special-duty rated, with a working load of 375 lbs. maximum. They are considered to be rated for "super heavy-duty".  (Acceptable for work use.)

Type IA ladders are industrial rated, with a working load of 300 lbs. maximum. They are considered to be rated for "extra heavy-duty".  (Acceptable for work use.)

Type I ladders are also industrial rated, but with a working load of 250 lbs. maximum.  They are considered to be rated for "heavy-duty". (Acceptable for work use.)

Type II ladders are commercially rated, with a working load of 225 lbs. maximum. They are considered to be rated for "medium-duty". (Not acceptable for work use.)

Type III ladders are household rated, with a working load of 200 lbs. maximum. They are considered to be rated for "light-duty".  (Not acceptable for work use.)

The ladder becomes top-heavy and very unstable when the top of a step ladder, or the top rung of a step ladder, is used. If additional height is needed to access the work, a taller ladder should be used.

Contact Information

Robin McCall-Miller, Occupational Safety Program Manager

Phone: 540-231-2341