Ladder safety rules

March is National Ladder Safety Month

Casey MorganSafety

Ladder safety rulesEvery year over 300 people die in ladder-related accidents, and thousands suffer disabling injuries. On the jobsite, your life literally can depend on knowing how to properly inspect, use, and care for this tool.

Incidents reported to the Houston OSHA Area Offices with ladders involved serious injuries and in some cases death. In FY 2016 there were three fatalities and 22 reported ladder incidents resulting in hospitalization with injuries ranging from internal bleeding in the brain to fractured bones.

GHBA is proud to join the American Ladder Institute (ALI) in celebrating the first-ever National Ladder Safety Month, designed to raise awareness of ladder safety and to decrease the number of ladder-related injuries and fatalities.


The ALI has provided this handy guide with common ladder safety rules, ladder safety resources, and a list of ladder related fatalities in the last year. Download it here!

Using Ladders

Choose the right type and size ladder. Except where stairways, ramps, or runways are provided, use a ladder to go from one level to another. Keep these points in mind:

  1. Be sure straight ladders are long enough so that the side rails extend above the top support point, by at least 36 inches.
  2. Don’t set up ladders in areas such as doorways or walkways where others may run into them, unless they are protected by barriers. Keep the area around the top and base of the ladder clear. Don’t run hoses, extension cords, or ropes on a ladder and create an obstruction.
  3. Don’t try to increase the height of a ladder by standing it on boxes, barrels or other materials. Don’t try to splice two ladders together.
  4. Do not apply personal or job stickers/decals.
  5. Set the ladder on solid footing against a solid support. Don’t try to use a stepladder as a straight ladder.
  6. Place the base of straight ladders out away from the wall or ledge of the upper level about 1 foot for every 4 feet of vertical height. Don’t use ladders as a platform, runway, or scaffold.
  7. Tie in, block or otherwise secure the top of straight ladders to prevent them from shifting.
  8. To avoid slipping on a ladder, check your shoes for oil, grease, or mud and wipe it off before climbing.
  9. Always face the ladder and hold on with both hands when climbing up or down. Don’t try to carry tools or materials with you.
  10. Don’t lean out to the side when you’re on a ladder. If something is out of reach, get down and move the ladder over.
  11. Most ladders are designed to hold only one person at a time. Use by two workers may cause the ladder to fail or throw the ladder off balance.
Inspecting Ladders

Before using any ladder, inspect it. Look for the following faults:

  • Loose or missing rungs or cleats
  • Loose nails, bolts, screws
  • Wood splinters or damaged edges
  • Cracked, broken, split, dented or badly worn rungs, cleats or side rails
  • Corrosion of metal ladders or metal parts

If you find a ladder in poor condition, tag the ladder and take it out of service. If repairs are not feasible, the defective ladder should be removed from the jobsite.

Care of Ladders

Take good care of ladders and they’ll take care of you. Store them in well-ventilated areas, away from dampness.

Sources: American Ladder Institute (ALI); and the OSHA “Toolbox Talk” Fall Prevention Training Guide