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Ladder Safety in Construction. Developed by Division of Occupational Safety and Health September, 2009. Ladder Safety in Construction. Falls from ladders are one of the leading causes of injuries in the construction trade.

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ladder safety in construction

Ladder Safety in Construction

Developed by Division of Occupational Safety and Health

September, 2009

ladder safety in construction1
Ladder Safety in Construction

Falls from ladders are one of the leading causes of injuries in the construction trade.

The majority of the falls are caused by misuse, faulty ladders or carelessness.

The Ladder Safety Rule (WAC 296-876) was written to reduce or eliminate these mishaps.

This presentation provides some basic safety practices on ladder use based on these regulations.

Common causes of ladder injuries

Improperly getting on or off the ladder

Loss of balance

Setting up the ladder improperly

Overreaching while on the ladder

Mis-stepping or slipping while climbing or descending

other causes of falls from ladders
Other causes of falls from ladders
  • Lack of training on safe ladder use
  • Using the wrong type ladder for the job
  • Exceeding the ladder weight capacity
  • Climbing ladder with tools or material in hands
  • Climbing or descending not facing the ladder
  • Oil, grease or mud on ladder rungs
  • Ladder not secure at the base or top
  • Ladder not set up at the proper angle
  • Ladder not extended 3 feet above upper surface
  • Using the top step of a step ladder
  • Placing ladder on unstable surfaces
  • Over-reaching beyond the side rails of the ladder
ladder training
Ladder Training

Every employee that uses a ladder must be trained by a competent person in the use, placement and construction of the ladder and the hazards associated with them.

A competent person is anyone who is knowledgeable of the ladders to be used, can recognize all the hazards associated with ladders and has the authority to take the necessary action to eliminate these hazards.

Self-supporting ladders

These include stepladders and have one or two extra legs that are attached to the ladder for support. They do not require a structure to support them.

Wood stepladder

Trestle ladder

Tripod Ladder

Fiberglass stepladder

Non-self supporting ladders

These include straight ladders and extension ladders. A ladder is “non-self supporting” type when it must be leaned against a solid structure for support and can’t stand alone.

In the photo, this extension ladder will be supported by the building structure.

Leaning extension ladder against building for support

Examples of Non Self-Supporting Ladders

Straight ladder

Extension ladder

Multipurpose ladders

These ladders can be used in a variety of configurations

ladder load capacity
Ladder load capacity

Each ladder type has a “duty rating” that is specific to the maximum safe load capacity of the ladder. A person's fully clothed weight plus the weight of the persons tool belt must be less than this duty rating.

Workers should select a ladder based on load capacity and the type of work to be done.

Exceeding the load capacity may cause the ladder to collapse.

Ladders will be labeled as shown above.

keep ladders in a good condition
Ensure the following:

- Side rails aren't bent, broken, or split

- Rungs, cleats, or steps aren't bent, broken, or missing

- All bolts and rivets are in place and securely tighten

- Joint between the side rails and the individual rungs/steps is tight

- Safety feet are not excessively worn

- Hardware and fittings are securely attached and working properly

- Ropes aren't frayed or badly worn

- Moveable parts operate freely without binding or excessive play.

- Metal components aren't corroded.

- No other faulty or defective components exist.

- Any auxiliary equipment is securely attached, not excessively worn and functions properly.

Keep Ladders in a Good Condition
inspect ladders before use
Inspect ladders before use

Look for cracks, splits, dents, bends, corrosion, and missing hardware.

All of these ladders are unsafe and could fail if used by employees.

mud oil or grease
Mud, Oil or Grease

Keep shoes/boots free of slippery substances.

Inspect ladder rungs for any oil, grease, mud or other slippery substances which could affect traction.

ladder positioning
Ladder Positioning

Position ladders so that they are:

  • Not in the paths of workers walking through,
  • Not in front of unblocked exits,
  • Not in front of doors that can open out into the ladder,
  • Not on boxes, barrels or other unstable surfaces,
  • On solid footing and level at the bottom,
  • Stable at the top with each rail supported equally,
  • Against a structure capable of supporting the intended load,
  • Away from debris and other hazards.
ladder placement
Ladder Placement

Place ladders on solid surfaces that will support the ladder and prevent displacement by other workers.

Block, tape, lock or guard a door if the ladder is placed where the door will hit it when opened.

step ladder setup
Step-Ladder Setup

Open up step ladder legs completely and lockthe spreader bar braces.

never use the top of a step ladder
Warning labels on stepladders clearly state that the top step and top cap are not to be used as a step. The higher you are on a step ladder, the less stable it becomes.Never use the top of a step ladder

step ladder too short for this job

…could lead to this!!

Doing this….

setting up extension ladder
Setting up extension ladder

Place ladder base on a firm, level surface with secure footing.

Don’t place a ladder on unstable footing or soft ground.

As the ladder sinks into the ground or slips from where it is positioned, it becomes very unstable.

Position the ladder on solid ground or shoring to ensure stability.

An unstable base

setting up an extension ladder
When working from an extension ladder, make sure it is set up at a 4:1 angle with secure footing on a firm level surface.

For accessing an upper level, make sure the extension ladder is set up at a 4:1 angle on a firm, level surface and the side rails extend at least 3’ above the surface to be accessed. Lastly, make sure the extension ladder is secured at the top and bottom

Setting up an extension ladder

Proper ladder set-up

Improper ladder set-up (not 3 ft. above roof line)

proper extension ladder setup
Proper Extension Ladder Setup


3 ft. above top surface

For every four feet of ladder length measured from where the ladder contacts the support point, the base of the ladder should be one foot away from the supporting structure (one to four rule).

The ladder must extend at least three feet above the surface to provide safe access or be rigidly secured at the top with a grasping device if less than three feet.

The ladder in the photo contacts the supporting structure at 9 feet. This means that the base of the ladder should be 27 inches back from the support.

Secured from slipping

9 ft.

27 inches

determining proper ladder setup angle
Determining proper ladder setup angle

One way to ensure proper angle is to stand with your feet at the base of the ladder and extend your arms straight out. If your hands just touch, the ladder will be very close to the 4 to 1 ratio.

ladder set up on uneven ground
Ladder can be set up straight and level on just about any type of uneven surface using ladder levels attached to the side rails.Ladder set-up on uneven ground
straight ladder stabilizers
The straight ladder side rails must be equally supported at the top, unless the ladder is equipped with an adequate stabilizer. Straight ladder stabilizers

Ladders with top stabilizers

climbing or descending a ladder
Climbing or descending a ladder

When climbing a ladder, you must have both hands free and face the ladder. This allows for three points of contact with the ladder at all times and reduces the chances of falling. The three point contact is two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet.

This way

Not this way

climbing and descending
This worker does not have both hands free to hold onto the ladder while climbing or descending the ladder.Climbing and descending

Proper ladder climbing with tools on belt and both hands free

overreaching from the sides
Overreaching from the sides

Doing this….

Could result in this!

electrical hazards and ladders
Don’t use metal or conductive ladders near

energized electrical equipment or overhead power lines.

Electrical Hazards and Ladders
tying extension ladders
Don’t tie or fasten ladder sections together to make a longer ladder, unless the manufacturer specifically endorses this modification using hardware fittings designed for that purpose. Tying Extension ladders
ladder misuse
Ladder misuse

A ladder must be used only for purposes specifically recommended by the manufacturer.

The ladder in this photo is being as a ramp to enter the house interior.

step ladder misuse
Step Ladder Misuse

Rather than a firm, level surface, this stepladder is positioned on a fence so the such that the bottom step is taking the load rather than the side rails.

It doesn’t extend three feet above the roof surface, is not secured, and the worker is standing on the top step to access roof.

This stepladder is being misused to access doorway.

Stepladders can’t be used partially closed and leaned against the wall.

stepladder misuse
A 3-legged step-ladder with the worker standing on the top cap and balancing on one foot.

(Also, no safety glasses while using a nail gun and hard hat is worn backwards)

Stepladder Misuse
step ladder misuse1
Step ladder misuse

This step ladder is not fully opened with spreader bar locked and the step ladder side rails are straddling a scaffold plank being set up in a position not intended by the manufacturer.

hazardous ladder use
A 3-legged step-ladder leaned against a 2x4 nailed across the window.

A repair patch on the left front side rail of ladder.

No fall protection in use while working at height.

Hazardous Ladder Use
hazardous ladder use1
Unsecured, folded step-ladder set on an angled shed roof so that only the tips of the side rails lay on roof.

Extension ladder not extended at least 3-feet above roof, set up at an angle greater than a 4:1, and it’s not secured top and bottom to prevent movement.

No fall protection being used while on this walking/working surface.

Hazardous ladder use
ladder misuse1
Ladder Misuse

Two workers using two step-ladders leaned against wall, set up over wood debris, with the far worker standing on the top step. (also, third worker needs fall protection)

A better choice in ladders would make this job easier!!

more safe ladder practices
Use a ladder only when you are mentally alert and physically able.

Don’t let your belt buckle pass beyond either ladder side rails.

Hold the ladder with one hand while working with the other.

Don't hurry or skip rungs /steps when using the ladder.

Be careful when pushing or pulling anything while up on a ladder.

More safe ladder practices
a few more ladder safe practices
Don't test a ladder by jumping on it.

Don't paint a wood ladder.

Don't use any ladder that has been exposed to fire or other strong chemicals.

Protect ladders from environmental elements such as: excessive heat or cold.

Don't drop or throw ladders.

Store ladders out of the way of other employees.

Secure ladders firmly when transporting on vehicles.

A few more ladder safe practices
More Information

OSHA Construction eTool – ladders

CPWR – Ladder Safety (safety meeting topic)

CPWR Video – ladder safety (online video)

L & I Video Library (several videos on ladder safety)