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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.
  • What is Ladder Safety? Oregon OSHA.
  • 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.

1. Don't stand or work on the _____ of an extension ladder.

a. top half
b. top 3 rungs
c. top 4 treads
d. side rails

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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 because of 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 the ladder before putting it to use. If the ladder is damaged, it must be removed from service and tagged until it is 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 secured 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 should be free of oil, grease, or slippery materials.
  • Ladders 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 should be placed on a secure and level footing. When necessary, ladder levelers should be used to achieve equal rail support on uneven surfaces.
  • The ladder base must have the slip resistant material.

2. The main causes of falls from portable ladders are _____.

a. movable parts that bind or have too much free play
b. broken rungs and side rails
c. oil, grease, or slippery materials on rungs
d. ladder base sliding and tipping sideways

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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.

3. When working around overhead energized power lines, never use _____.

a. Type E hard hats
b. metal ladders or conductive tools
c. arc flash protective clothing
d. insulated gloves and shoes

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rf123 photo 13576365_s
3-Point-Contact Method

Working on the Ladder

Three-Point-Contact is Less Safe

In the three-point contact method the worker may depend upon any 3 points of bodily contact with the ladder in the attempt to provide a sense of stability when working. However, using parts of the body such as the stomach, legs, forearm, shoulder, or palms of the hand are actually unreliable and can lead to a false sense of stability.

Although some argue leaning against a surface is acceptable as a point of contact; however, 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 cannot prevent a fall if both feet were to slip.

Because the three-point contact method does not require reliable, stable support, and is likely not to prevent a fall if stability is lost, it is not the preferred method to use when on a ladder. Don't use it.

4. Using the less-safe 3-point-contact method to support an employee while working on a ladder _____.

a. requires that the workers uses both feet and hands for support
b. allows the worker to use any three points of bodily contact
c. is the preferred method while working on ladders
d. is most reliable in preventing falls

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Working on the Ladder (Continued)

Three-Point Control is More Safe

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

Three-Point-Control is More Safe

The three-point control method requires a worker to use any three of their four limbs for reliable, stable support that could prevent many accidents.

The three-point control method requires the worker to place their hand on the ladder in a way to support the full weight of the body if needed in an emergency.

Grip the horizontal rung. If a worker has both feet on the ladder and is gripping a horizontal rung they are much less likely to fall if both of their feet were to slip. A horizontal grip is stronger and can handle greater breakaway force.

Don't grip the vertical side rail. The grip while holding a vertical rail is weaker and the breakaway force is more likely to be too great for the grip to handle. During a fall, the hand might slide down the vertical rail until it disconnects from the ladder when it collides with the rung. A vertical grip can only support approximately 50 percent of person's bodyweight.

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.

5. Using the more-safe 3-point-control method to support an employee while working on a ladder _____.

a. requires that the workers use both feet and hands for support
b. allows the worker to use any three points of bodily contact
c. is not the preferred method while working on ladders
d. is less reliable in preventing falls

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rf123 photo 5013964_m
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 setback 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 setback 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. It is intended to help a wide range of ladder users, employers, and safety professionals, with their ladder-related safety needs.

6. Non-self-supporting ladders should have a set-up angle of _____ to the horizon.

a. 60 degrees
b. about 75 degrees
c. at least 85 degrees
d. less than 90 degrees

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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. A 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, at rung #8 and #9 when the base of the ladder slipped away from the house. When the ladder fell, it 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.

7. To make sure ladders are being used correctly on the construction worksite, what action should be taken?

a. Observe all activities throughout the day
b. Tell workers to use common sense
c. Conduct daily hazard assessments
d. Encourage workers to use the correct ladder

Check your Work

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