OSHA Guidelines for Ladder Safety.
The OSHA standard for portable ladders contains specific requirements designed to ensure worker safety:
- Self-supporting (foldout) and non-self-supporting (leaning) portable ladders must be able to support at least four times the maximum intended load, except extra-heavy-duty metal or plastic ladders, which must be able to sustain 3.3 times the maximum intended load.
- Non-self-supporting ladders, which must lean against a wall or other support, are to be positioned at such an angle that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is about 1/4 the working length of the ladder.
- In the case of job-made wooden ladders, that angle should equal about 1/8 the working length. This minimizes the strain of the load on ladder joints that may not be as strong as on commercially manufactured ladders.
- Ladder rungs, cleats, or steps must be parallel, level, and uniformly spaced when the ladder is in position for use. Rungs must be spaced between 10″-14″ inches apart.
- For extension trestle ladders, the spacing must be 8″-18″ inches for the base, and 6″-12″ inches on the extension section.
- Rungs must be so shaped that an employee’s foot cannot slide off, and must be skid-resistant.
- Ladders are to be kept free of oil, grease, wet paint, and other slipping hazards.
- Wood ladders must not be coated with any opaque covering, except identification or warning labels on one face only of a side rail.
- Foldout or stepladders must have a metal spreader or locking device to hold the front and back sections in an open position when in use.
- When two or more ladders are used to reach a work area, they must be offset with a landing or platform between the ladders.
The area around the top and bottom of ladder must be kept clear.
- Ladders must not be tied or fastened together to provide longer sections, unless they are specifically designed for such use.
- Never use a ladder for any purpose other than the one for which it was designed.
- Falls from portable ladders (step, straight, combination and extension) are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries.
Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.
- Avoid electrical hazards! – Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.
- Always inspect the ladder prior to using it. If the ladder is damaged, it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
- Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing.
- Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.
- Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.
- Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
- Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
- Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.
- Do not place a ladder on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases to obtain additional height.
- Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.
- An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support (see diagram). Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder
- The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface (see diagram).
- A ladder placed in any location where it can be displaced by other work activities must be secured to prevent displacement or a barricade must be erected to keep traffic away from the ladder.
- Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
- Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder. Be aware of the ladder’s load rating and of the weight it is supporting, including the weight of any tools or equipment.
For additional safety information please visit the OSHA Fall Protection website.