Ladder Safety 101

Written By Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

NOTE: This information is being provided for your use/reference after the current Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order has been rescinded, lifted or changed to allow outdoor building maintenance.

It is the season to get out there and start doing spring cleaning, outdoor building maintenance and stretching out winter’s cramps! While we may want to get some of these ‘to-do’ items off our list and start enjoying the nice weather, it is important that ensuring all equipment is inspected, maintained and tested before use, especially ladders! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ladders have accounted for over 20,000 injures in the year 2015, with more than 150 deaths. OSHA has ladders listed on the OSHA “Top 10” most cited violations almost every year. Below is what you need to be doing in order to stay safe while using a ladder.

Getting the Correct Ladder
When going to purchase a ladder, ensure that you get a ladder that fits the task. If the ladder is going to be used around roofs and areas that may have live wires around, look for “Non-conductive side rails.” Also, ensure that the ladder’s type and duty rating is suited to the work that it will be used for. Understand that some ladders are only rated for 200 pounds and the weight of an individual and everything that they may have on (i.e. equipped tool belt) while going up a ladder should be factored in. Knowing that you have the correct ladder is the first step in ensuring a safe climb!

Employers must provide some means of training for employees who are required to use ladders. During this training, the employee must be able to learn about ladder-related hazards and injuries and also learn how to inspect and use a ladder properly. This training should occur before an employee is even allowed to use a ladder and annually thereafter.


Inspect a ladder prior to each day of use. This inspection should be made by a competent person who has been trained in what to look for. Things to be included in an inspection checklist are no structural damage, labels and stickers are clearly visible, there are no cracks or significant dents anywhere, all cleats/steps are fixed securely, ladders are free of liquids or dusts that would cause a slip hazard, and all hinges, ropes, and bolts/screws/rivets are securely fastened. Know that a well-maintained ladder can last a long time and save you money!


Ensure that you retrieve a ladder properly and are lifting it ergonomically and safely. While ladders may not weigh a lot, their size and proportions make them feel a lot heavier than they really are. Encourage workers to use team lifting practices if a ladder is too large or heavy for one individual. When placing a ladder, ensure it’s at the proper angle. When a ladder is placed against something, the bottom of the ladder should be one-quarter of the ladder’s working length away from the wall. This is known as the “ladder 4 to 1 rule.” For access to an elevated work surface, such as a roof, extend the top of the ladder 36 inches above the resting surface. Always maintain at least three contact points when climbing up or down a ladder. This includes either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. A point of contact can only be established through a hand or foot and does not include wrapping your arm around a step or leaning against the ladder. It is best practice to put tools or other materials inside a bucket and pull them up safely with rope or other means, rather than carrying them by hand up the ladder. Always face the ladder when going up or down and take extra caution when you get on or off the ladder.

Ladders are replaceable, but people are not! If you or your employees are unsure about the safety of a ladder, it is best to dispose of or recycle it, if metal. Wooden ladders may have hidden damage. Using them is not encouraged. They should not be painted. Keeping up-to-date with OSHA and other local regulations ensures that you stay on top of the most current rules and policies.For more information, visit, your local safety agency, or email me at

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