Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

General Requirements - Ladders

ladder parts
Ladder Labels - Courtesy of Werner Ladders.


Falls from portable ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. Before using a ladder, read and follow all the labels and markings on the ladder. Below are some ladder do's and don'ts:

  • Do keep ladders in a safe condition and store ladders appropriately.
  • Do keep the area around the top and bottom of a ladder clear.
  • Do replace all frayed or badly worn ropes.
  • Do make sure rungs, cleats,and steps are level and uniformly spaced.
  • Do use ladders only for their designated purpose.
  • Don't tie ladders together to make longer sections.
  • Don't use single rail ladders.
  • Don't load ladders beyond the maximum load for which they were built.
  • Don't use damaged or defective ladders.
  • Don't climb too high on the ladder.
  • Don't hand carry loads or equipment while on a ladder.
  • Don't reach to the point where you lose your balance.
  • Don't stand or work on the top cap or the step below the top cap of a stepladder.
  • Don't stand or work on the top 3 rungs of an extension ladder.
  • Don't place ladders on boxes, barrels, pick-up truck beds, scaffolds, or equipment.
  • Don't use portable ladders in a horizontal position as a plank, platform, or scaffold etc.
  • Don't splice together short ladders to make longer ladders.
  • Don't use ladders in high winds.
  • Don't use extension ladders without maintaining minimum overlap.
  • Don't use a ladder that does not meet the required duty rating.
  • Don't use a metal ladder when working on or near electrical circuits.
Do not use a ladder on slippery or snowy surfaces unless it is secured.

Securing Ladders

There is a significant risk of falling if portable ladders are not safely positioned each time they are used. Unsecured ladders can slip or shift due to the weight load or lack of friction between the ladder and contact points. It is very easy to lose your balance while getting on or off an unsteady ladder. Be sure to evaluate the situation; do not use a ladder on slippery surfaces unless it is secured or has slip-resistant feet.

Inspecting Ladders

It is important to inspect any ladder before it is put into use. If the ladder is damaged in any way, it must be removed from service and tagged until it is either repaired or thrown away. Employees should conduct inspections for general ladder safety for all portable ladder types by checking the following:

  • Ladders should not have any damage, lack of structural integrity, missing components or loose parts.
  • Damaged or worn ladders should be destroyed.
  • The steps or rungs must be tight and secure to the side rails.
  • All hardware and fittings need to be properly and securely attached.
  • Movable parts must be tested to see that they operate without binding or without too much free play.
  • All labels should be intact and readable.
  • Ladders shall be free of oil, grease, or slippery materials.
  • A ladder that has been exposed to fire or strong chemicals should be discarded.
  • All accessories such as leg levelers, paint shelves, stand-off shelves, etc. are in good condition.
  • The ladder base shall be placed on a secure and level footing. When necessary, ladder levelers shall be used to achieve equal rail support on uneven surfaces.
  • The ladder base must have the slip resistant material.

Real-Life Scenario

On August 3, 2010 a 23-year-old male laborer was electrocuted and two co-workers were severely shocked when the 32-foot aluminum ladder that was part of a ladder platform hoist came in contact with energized overhead power lines.

The victim and the two co-workers were in the process of raising the ladder from a horizontal position on the ground to a vertical position against a building. While raising the ladder to the vertical position, the workers lost their footing and the ladder fell towards and came in contact with energized overhead power lines. Two co-workers were shocked and thrown to the ground.

The victim was electrocuted and the ladder fell to the ground landing on top of him. Once the two co-workers regained mobility, they went to assist the victim. One of the coworkers placed a call for emergency medical services (EMS) and then placed a second call to the employer. The local police arrived followed by EMS within minutes of the call. The victim was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.


1. Eliminate the use of conductive tools and equipment, including ladders, in proximity to energized overhead power lines.
2. Conduct job site surveys prior to the start of construction projects to identify potential hazards, such as energized overhead power lines, and implement appropriate control measures for these hazards.

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3-Point-Contact Method

Three-Point Control vs. Three-Point Contact

Three-Point Contact

What is the difference between the three-point control method and the three-point contact method? The three-point control method requires a worker to use 3 limbs for reliable, stable support, while the three-point contact method requires a worker only depend upon 3 points of contact with the ladder.

Using the stomach or palm are examples of unstable points of contact; these points of contact are unreliable and lead to a false sense of stability.

Though some argue leaning against a surface is acceptable as a point of contact, there is a significant problem with this assumption. For example, if a worker has both feet on a ladder while resting one palm on the roof (three-point contact) they will not be able to prevent a fall if both feet were to slip.

Because the three-point contact method does not require reliable, stable support, it is not the preferred method to use when on a ladder.

Three-Point Control vs. Three-Point Contact (Continued)

Three-Point Control

3 point control
Three-Point Control Method
Notice horizontal grip.

On the other hand, the three-point control method requires a worker to use three of his or her four limbs for reliable, stable support. This climbing strategy could prevent many of the ladder falls and deaths occurring throughout the United States and world. The three-point control method requires the worker to place his hand on the ladder in a way to support the full weight of the body if needed in an emergency. The breakaway force from a vertical rail is too great for a worker, male or female, to fully support their weight if only gripping with one hand. During a fall, the hand would slide down the bar until it contacts a rung on the ladder. The hand would most likely disconnect from the ladder when it collides with the rung. A vertical grip can only support approximately 50 percent of person's bodyweight.

If a worker, using the three-point control method, has both feet on the ladder and is gripping a horizontal rung (three-point control), they are much less likely to fall if both of their feet were to slip. When a worker uses a horizontal grip, it allows for about a 75 percent to 94 percent increase in breakaway force when compared to gripping a vertical rail. A horizontal grip allows the worker to hold their bodyweight and prevent a fall.

There are seven conditions for using three-point control while working from ladders. They include:

  1. Work only for short periods of time
  2. Use light tools and materials designed for single-hand use
  3. Make sure the ladder is stabilized
  4. Keep the ladder at the lowest height possible
  5. Make sure belly button remains between side rails
  6. Keep both feet at the same level
  7. Maintain a horizontal one-hand grip (power grip)

Keeping three-point control for good support is critical while a worker is climbing, moving or working at an elevation. It is important to note, the three-point control method is not a substitution for the use of fall protection equipment.

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4:1 Ladder Angle
(Click to enlarge)

Ladder Angle

A non-self-supporting ladder should have a set-up angle of about 75 degrees — a 4:1 ratio of the ladder’s working length to set-back distance.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand at the base of the ladder with your toes touching the rails. Extend your arms straight out in front of you.
  • If the tips of your finger just touch the rung nearest your shoulder level, the angle of your ladder has a 4:1 ratio.

Important Consideration! When your upper-support surface is an eave or other surface that projects out from the primary vertical surface, the 4-to-1 set-back distance must be calculated from directly below the upper-support point, not from the recessed vertical surface.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed an easy-to-use interactive ladder safety application for smart phones. The NIOSH Ladder Safety application features a multimodal indicator, which uses visual and sound signals to assist the user in positioning an extension ladder at an optimal angle. The application provides graphic-oriented interactive reference materials, safety guidelines and checklists for extension ladder selection, inspection, accessorizing, and use. The application is intended to help a wide range of ladder users, employers, and safety professionals, with their ladder-related safety needs.

Real-Life Scenario

On January 13, 2007, a 43-year-old male carpenter was injured when he fell from a ladder that slipped away from the drip edge of a house. The victim positioned the fiberglass extension ladder diagonally across the inside corner of the roof to secure a 2-inch by 4-inch piece of wood to the fascia under the drip edge to protect the drip edge. The ladder’s safety feet were in an up position on the frozen soil. He called to his coworker to hold the ladder while he accessed the roof area. The coworker stood underneath the ladder and held rung #5 with his right hand and rung #7 with his left hand. The victim climbed the ladder holding the wood, to either rung #8 or #9 when the base of the ladder slipped away from the house. The falling ladder struck the coworker on his shoulder and arm and knocked him to the ground. The decedent fell to the coworker’s left and landed on his back. Emergency crews transported the victim to the hospital where he died six days later.



1. Employers should ensure that ladders are used in accordance with the requirements of existing safety standards and good standard practice.
2. Employers should develop and implement a comprehensive written safety program.
3. Construction employers should conduct a daily hazard assessment to determine if environmental working conditions have changed or will change. They should inform their employees of their findings and how the changing conditions may affect the work to be performed.
4. Employers should consider having at least one person on the jobsite certified in First Aid/CPR, should strongly consider having an individual certified as a Medical First Responder or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and hold at least semi-annual workplace rescue/first aid practices.


This exercise is optional. To complete the exercise you must speak to trainer John and answer his questions. To do so, you will need to select a response at the bottom of the screen. Do your best to answer his questions. Good luck!



Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. You can use a metal ladder around power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.

2. The following is a component of the 3-point-control method:

3. A non-self-supporting ladder should have a set-up angle of about 60 degrees.

4. A non-self-supporting ladder should be set-up at a 4:1 angle.

5. Which choice below is a condition for using three-point control while working from ladders?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.