Watch your Step:

Ladder Safety Reminders for Any Workplace

Almost every workplace requires the use of a ladder at one time or another, even if only to change the occasional light bulb. A ladder is a tool, and it needs to be treated with the same safety considerations as you would employ with any other tool that could potentially be dangerous.


The American Ladder Institute and OSHA offer guidelines for basic ladder safety:


1. Be sure the person using the ladder is in good physical shape. Individuals who are tired or prone to losing their balance should not use a ladder.


2. Proper footwear is important. Wear shoes with clean, rubber soles that provide traction.


3. Unless specifically designed for multiple climbers, a ladder should only be used by one person at a time.


4. Use a ladder that is the correct size for the task.

  • A ladder’s duty rating is its maximum safe load capacity, as described in pounds. The duty rating must be greater than the total combined weight of the user, along with any tools, supplies or other objects being carried up or placed on the ladder.
  • The ladder’s safety information will be specific to the type and model of ladder; any climber must be familiar with this information before using the ladder.

5. Before using a ladder, inspect to ensure that there are no loose or missing parts.


6. A ladder must be placed on firm, level ground where there is no potential for slippage.


7. Never place a ladder in front of a closed door that could open toward the ladder. If a ladder must be placed in front of a doorway, either block the door open, lock it, or guard it.


8. Use a fiberglass ladder if there’s any chance that it could come into contact with electricity.


9. When placing a ladder, the correct angle is to place the base one quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.


10. Be sure that all locks are engaged when using an extension ladder.


11. Never use a ladder outside in windy or stormy weather.


As an employer, there are only certain things that are completely within your control when you have employees on the job. One is setting policies and guidelines for your employees to follow. You can also assign people to tasks like checking equipment to be sure that it’s safe and usable and checking for other practices, like making sure workers have the correct footwear. But, as the employer, you also have a responsibility to train your staff to follow certain best practices for the work environment. No matter what the person’s weight and size, correct climbing posture is important when reducing one’s exposure to a fall.


A ladder climber can reduce the likelihood of a fall by:


1. Keeping the stomach (“belly button” area) centered between the ladder’s side rails both while climbing and while working.


2. Avoiding overreaching or leaning in order to avoid a sideways fall off the ladder or having it tip.


3. Avoiding trying to move the ladder while standing on it (or having someone else do so).


4. Using a towline, tool belt, or another person to transport tools and materials so that the climber can keep both hands available while climbing.


5. Remembering the “three points of contact” rule: Two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, in contact with the ladder’s steps, rungs, and/or side rails at all times.


6. Never standing on top of the ladder.


7. Placing the ladder to extend three feet above the landing if it will be necessary to climb off at an upper level.


Falls from ladders are a leading cause of occupational injuries and fatalities, so it’s worthwhile to review these practices and guidelines with any employee who might be using one. For more resources on ladder safety go to and use your member log in to gain access.