The Importance of Ladder Safety

Key Facts: Ladder falls are the leading cause of death on construction jobsites in the United States. Each year ladder incidents account for 164,000 hospitalized injuries and around 300 deaths nationwide. That’s nearly a death each day. These unfortunate incidents are caused when people fall off or mishandle ladders.

Ladders are valuable tools, but they present a range of hazards that workers need to understand in order to use them safely. This company has created this policy to ensure employees understand how to use ladders safely, how to select the right ladder for a job, how to store and maintain ladders, and how to recognize ladders that may be hazardous.


Preventing injuries from ladder use is a cooperative effort between this company and its employees.

SoCal Removal is responsible for:

  • Ensuring all ladders meet safety requirements and are maintained in safe, working condition
  • Selecting ladders to purchase according to needs of operations
  • Ensuring employees are trained in safe ladder selection and use
  • Removing ladders from service when they are no longer safe to be used
  • Ensuring employees use ladders as safely as possible

It is the responsibility of Andre Abajian or the SoCal Removal appointed Program Administrator to:

  • Develop and provide training on ladder safety and fall hazards
  • Suggest recommendations to management to increase ladder safety
  • Assist in hazard analyses and periodic walkthroughs and safety reviews to ensure continued safe ladder use

SoCal Removal Employees will:

  • Participate actively in ladder safety training
  • Recommend safety improvements and report safety hazards to supervisor, safety team or other appropriate personnel
  • Report damaged or otherwise unsafe ladders
  • Follow safe practices when using ladders
  • Transport and store ladders according to best safe practices

Ladder Use Safe Practices:

Anytime there is a break in elevation of 19 inches or more, and no ramp, runway, embankment, or hoist is provided, SoCal Removal must and will provide either a stairway or a ladder.

The point of access between levels must always allow free passage. If there is work being performed limits free access, another point of access must be provided.

SoCal Removal will ensure that all necessary fall protection is in place before employees are permitted to work from elevation. Consult the chapter on Fall Protection for more information.

Consult the chapter on Scaffold Safety for requirements on ladders used to access scaffolds.

or descending. Unstable or slippery base surfaces are the primary reasons ladders fail.

Other reasons include a misstep or a slip of the foot, loss of balance, an overreach, and being struck by a vehicle or other object.


If a work area for 25 or more employees can be accessed only by a ladder (or anytime two-way traffic relies on a ladder), SoCal Removal will provide either a double-cleated ladder or two or more separate ladders to serve two-way traffic. Ladder rungs, cleats, and steps must be parallel, level, and uniformly spaced when the ladder is in position for use. Rungs, cleats, and steps of portable and fixed ladders (except as provided below) must not be spaced less than 10 inches apart, nor more than 14 inches apart, along the ladder’s side rails. Rungs, cleats, and steps of step stools must not be less than 8 inches apart, nor more than 12 inches apart, between centerlines of the rungs, cleats, and steps. Rungs, cleats, and steps at the base section of extension trestle ladders must not be less than 8 inches nor more than 18 inches apart, between centerlines of the rungs, cleats, and steps. The rung spacing on the extension section must not be less than 6 inches nor more than 12 inches.

Ladders must never be tied or fastened together to create longer sections unless they are specifically designed for such use.

A metal spreader or locking device must be provided on each stepladder to hold the front and back sections in an open position when the ladder is being used.

When splicing side rails, the resulting side rail must be equivalent in strength to a one-piece side rail made of the same material.

Two or more separate ladders used to reach an elevated work area must be offset with a platform or landing between the ladders, except when portable ladders are used to gain access to fixed ladders.

Ladder components must be constructed to prevent injury from punctures or lacerations, and prevent snagging of clothing.

Wood ladders must not be coated with any opaque covering, except for identification or warning labels, which may be placed only on one face of a side rail.

Ladders with conductive metal sides will be marked with the words “WARNING — Do not use around energized electrical equipment” and may not be used around energized electrical equipment.


Workers can reduce ladder fall risks by doing the following:

  • Frequently inspecting & maintaining ladders
  • Matching tasks to appropriate ladders
  • Setting up ladders correctly
  • Climbing & descending ladders properly

Any portable ladder used during construction activities: must be meet the following specifications:

  • Non-self-supporting and self-supporting portable ladders must support at least four times the maximum intended load; extra heavy-duty type 1A metal or plastic ladders must sustain 3.3 times the maximum intended load. The ability of a self-supporting ladder to sustain loads must be determined by applying the load to the ladder in a downward vertical direction. The ability of a non-self-supporting ladder to sustain loads must be determined by applying the load in a downward vertical direction when the ladder is placed at a horizontal angle of 75.5 degrees
  • The minimum clear distance between side rails for portable ladders must be 11.5 inches
  • The rungs and steps of portable metal ladders must be corrugated, knurled, dimpled, coated with skid-resistant material, or treated to minimize slipping


Single Portable or Straight Ladders

The single portable or straight ladder is indispensable for general use. It is the most common type of portable ladder and has the widest range of applications. When used on slippery surfaces, this ladder must have slip-resistant feet or be secured to prevent it from sliding. Rubber or neoprene ladder shoes are recommended for smooth, dry surfaces, and spikes are recommended for snow or ice. Single portable ladders must not be longer than 30 feet and be used by only one worker at a time.

Extension or Section Ladder

  • Extension ladders offer the greatest length in a general purpose ladder. The ladder consists of two or more sections that travel in guides or brackets, allowing adjustable lengths. The sections must be assembled so that the sliding upper section is on top of the lower section. Each section must overlap its adjacent section a minimum distance, based on the ladder’s overall length. See Table 2.

The overall length of an extension ladder is determined by adding the lengths of the individual sections, measured along the side rails.

Note: Install positive stops on individual ladder sections to ensure the required overlap.

Extension ladders are made of wood, metal, or reinforced fiberglass. Wood ladders cannot have more than two sections and must not exceed 60 feet. Metal and fiberglass ladders can have as many as three sections; however, the overall length must not exceed 72 feet. See Table 1. Individual sections of any extension ladder must not be longer than 30 feet.

Extension ladders are for use by only one person at a time.

Make sure extension ladders have non-slip bases if there is a chance the ladder can slip. Cord-face ladder shoes are recommended for wet surfaces, rubber, or neoprene ladder shoes for smooth dry floor surfaces, and steel spikes for ice or snow. Be careful if you use an extension ladder on oily, metal, or concrete surfaces. Place the ladder securely and tie it off to prevent it from slipping.


Standard Stepladder

The standard stepladder, a general purpose ladder, has flat steps and a hinged back. It is self-supporting and nonadjustable. An industrial model, designed for heavy service demands, has oversize back legs, heavy-duty flat steps, and knee braces that increase rigidity and durability.

Standard stepladders should be used only on surfaces that offer firm, level footing such as floors, platforms, and slabs. They are available in metal, wood, or reinforced fiberglass versions, and are intended to support only one worker at a time. Remember not to stand on, or work from, the top step. The ladders must have a metal spreader or locking arms. They cannot be longer than 20 feet, measured along the front edge of the side rails.

Two-Way Stepladder

The two-way stepladder is similar to the industrial standard stepladder; however, each side of this ladder has a set of steps. The extra set of steps offers convenience and versatility: one person can work from either side or two people can work from the ladder at the same time — one on each side.

Platform Ladder

The platform ladder is a special-purpose ladder that has a large stable platform from which you can work at the highest standing level. The ladder’s length is determined by the length of the front edge of the side rail from the bottom of the ladder to the base of the platform. The length of a platform ladder cannot exceed 20 feet.

Trestle Ladder

A trestle ladder is a self-supporting portable ladder that has two sections hinged at the top, forming equal angles with the base. A variation of the trestle ladder, the extension trestle ladder, includes a vertically adjustable single ladder that can be locked in place. (The single extension section must lap at least three feet into the base section.) Trestle ladders are used in pairs to support planks or staging. The rungs are not intended to be used as steps.

The angle of spread between open front and back legs must be 5 ½ inches per foot of length. The length cannot be more than 20 feet, measured along the front edge of the side rails.
Rails must be beveled at the top and have metal hinges to prevent spreading. Metal spreaders or locking devices are also required to keep the rails in place.


The storage area should be well ventilated. Wood ladders should not be exposed to moisture or excessive heat. Avoid storing ladders near stoves, steam pipes, or radiators.

Store straight or extension ladders in flat racks or on wall brackets. Make sure there are enough brackets to support the ladder so that it does not sag. If the ladder rails have a lateral curve, the wall brackets should match the curve.

Store stepladders vertically, in a closed position, to reduce the risk of sagging or twisting. Secure stored ladders so that they will not tip over if they are struck.

Store ladders, especially wood ladders, promptly after using them. Exposure to moisture and sun will shorten the life of a wood ladder.


When you hand-carry a ladder, keep the front end elevated, especially around blind corners, in aisles, and through doorways. You will reduce the chance of striking another person with the front of the ladder.


A fixed ladder must be capable of supporting at least two loads of 250 pounds each, concentrated between any two consecutive attachments. Fixed ladders must also support added anticipated loads caused by ice buildup, winds, rigging, and impact loads resulting from the use of ladder safety devices.

Individual rung/step ladders must extend at least 42 inches above an access level or landing platform, either by the continuation of the rung spacing as horizontal grab bars, or by providing vertical grab bars that must have the same lateral spacing as the vertical legs of the ladder rails.

Each step or rung of a fixed ladder must be capable of supporting a load of at least 250 pounds applied in the middle of the step or rung.

The minimum clear distance between the sides of individual rung/step ladders and between the side-rails of other fixed ladders must be 16 inches.

The rungs of individual rung/step ladders must be shaped to prevent slipping off the end of the rungs. The rungs and steps of fixed metal ladders must be corrugated, knurled, dimpled, coated with skid-resistant material, or treated to minimize slipping.

The minimum perpendicular clearance between fixed ladder rungs, cleats, and steps, and any obstruction behind the ladder must be 7 inches, except that the clearance for an elevator pit ladder must be 4.5 inches.

The minimum perpendicular clearance between the centerline of fixed ladder rungs, cleats, and steps, and any obstruction on the climbing side of the ladder must be 30 inches. If obstructions are unavoidable, clearance may be reduced to 24 inches, provided a deflection device is installed to guide workers around the obstruction.

The step-across distance between the center of the steps or rungs of fixed ladders and the nearest edge of a landing area must be no less than 7 inches and no more than 12 inches. A landing platform must be provided if the step-across distance exceeds 12 inches.

Fixed ladders must have cages, wells, ladder safety devices, or self-retracting lifelines where the length of climb is less than 24 feet but the top of the ladder is at a distance greater than 24 feet above lower levels. Fixed ladders without cages or wells must have at least a 15-inch clear width to the nearest permanent object on each side of the centerline of the ladder.

If the total length of a climb on a fixed ladder equals or exceeds 24 feet, at least one of the following items is required:

  • Ladder safety devices
  • Self-retracting lifelines, and rest platforms at intervals not to exceed 150 feet
  • A cage or well, and multiple ladder sections, each ladder section not to exceed 50 feet in length, these ladder sections must be offset from adjacent sections, and landing platforms must be provided at maximum intervals of 50 feet

The side rails of through or side-step fixed ladders must extend 42 inches above the top level or landing platform served by the ladder. For a parapet ladder, the access level must be at the roof if the parapet is cut to permit passage through it; if the parapet is continuous, the access level is the top of the parapet.

Steps or rungs for through-fixed-ladder extensions must be omitted from the extension; and the extension of side rails must be flared to provide between 24 inches (61 cm) and 30 inches clearance between side rails.

When safety devices are provided, the maximum clearance between side rail extensions must not exceed 36 inches.


Horizontal bands must be fastened to the side rails of rail ladders, or directly to the structure, building, or equipment for individual-rung ladders.

Vertical bars must be on the inside of the horizontal bands and must be fastened to them.

Cages must not extend less than 27 inches, or more than 30 inches from the centerline of the step or rung, and must not be less than 27 inches wide.

The inside of the cage must be clear of projections.

Horizontal bands must be spaced at intervals not more than 4 feet apart measured from centerline to centerline.

Vertical bars must be spaced at intervals not more than 9.5 inches apart measured from centerline to centerline.

The bottom of the cage must be between 7 feet and 8 feet above the point of access to the bottom of the ladder. The bottom of the cage must be flared not less than 4 inches between the bottom horizontal band and the next higher band.

The top of the cage must be a minimum of 42 inches above the top of the platform, or the point of access at the top of the ladder. Provisions must be made for access to the platform or other point of access.


  • Wells must completely encircle the ladder
  • Wells must be free of projections
  • The inside face of the well on the climbing side of the ladder must extend between 27 inches and 30 inches from the centerline of the step or rung
  • The inside width of the well must be at least 30 inches
  • The bottom of the well above the point of access to the bottom of the ladder must be between 7 feet and 8 feet


All safety devices must be capable of withstanding, without failure, a drop test consisting of a 500-pound weight dropping 18 inches.

All safety devices must permit the worker to ascend or descend without continually having to hold, push, or pull any part of the device, leaving both hands free for climbing.

All safety devices must be activated within 2 feet after a fall occurs, and limit the descending velocity of an employee to 7 feet/second or less.


Mountings for rigid carriers (rails) must be attached at each end of the carrier, with intermediate mountings, spaced along the entire length of the carrier, to provide the necessary strength to stop workers’ falls.

Mountings for flexible carriers (cables) must be attached at each end of the carrier. Cable guides for flexible carriers must be installed with a spacing between 25 feet and 40 feet along the entire length of the carrier, to prevent wind damage to the system.

The design and installation of mountings and cable guides must not reduce the strength of the ladder.

Side rails, and steps or rungs for side-step fixed ladders must be continuous in extension.


Inspect ladders for damage or wear before use. When portable ladders are used for access to an upper landing surface, the side rails must extend at least 3 feet above the upper landing surface. When such an extension is not possible, the ladder must be secured, and a grasping device such as a grab rail must be provided to assist workers in mounting and dismounting the ladder. A ladder extension must not deflect under a load that would cause the ladder to slip off its support.

  • Ladders must be maintained free of oil, grease, and other slipping hazards.
  • Ladders will not be loaded beyond the maximum intended load or the manufacturer’s rated capacity.
  • Ladders may only be used for the purpose for which they were designed.
  • Non-self-supporting ladders must be used at an angle where the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is approximately one-quarter of the working length of the ladder. Wood job-made ladders with spliced side rails must be used at an angle where the horizontal distance is one-eighth the working length of the ladder.
  • Fixed ladders must be used at a pitch no greater than 90 degrees from the horizontal, measured from the backside of the ladder.
  • Ladders must be used only on stable and level surfaces unless secured to prevent accidental movement.
  • Ladders may not be used on slippery surfaces unless secured or provided with slip- resistant feet to prevent accidental movement. Slip-resistant feet must not be used as a substitute for the care in placing, lashing, or holding a ladder upon slippery surfaces.

Ladders placed in areas such as passageways, doorways, or driveways, or where they can be displaced by workplace activities or traffic, must be secured to prevent accidental movement, or a barricade must be used to keep traffic or activities away from the ladder.

  • The area around the top and bottom of the ladders must be kept clear.
  • The top of a non-self-supporting ladder must be placed with two rails supported equally unless it is equipped with a single support attachment.
  • Ladders must not be moved, shifted, or extended while in use.
  • Ladders must have nonconductive side rails if they are used where the worker or the ladder could contact exposed energized electrical equipment.
  • The top or top step of a stepladder must not be used as a step.
  • Cross-bracing on the rear section of stepladders must not be used for climbing unless the ladders are designed and provided with steps for climbing on both front and rear sections.
  • Ladders must be inspected by a competent person for visible defects on a periodic basis and after any incident that could affect their safe use.
  • Single-rail ladders must not be used.
  • When ascending or descending a ladder, the worker must face the ladder.
  • Each worker must use at least one hand to grasp the ladder.
  • A worker on a ladder must not carry any object or load that could cause the worker to lose balance and fall.


  • Portable ladders with structural defects-such as broken or missing rungs, cleats, or steps, broken or split rails, corroded components, or other faulty or defective components-must immediately be marked defective, or tagged with “Do Not Use” or similar language and withdrawn from service until repaired.
  • Fixed ladders with structural defects-such as broken or missing rungs, cleats, or steps, broken or split rails, or corroded components-must be withdrawn from service until repaired. Ladder repairs must restore the ladder to a condition meeting its original design criteria, before the ladder is returned to use.
  • Defective fixed ladders are considered withdrawn from use when they are:
    • Immediately tagged with “Do Not Use” or similar language
    • Marked in a manner that identifies them as defective
    • Blocked (such as with a plywood attachment that spans several rungs)


  • Landings for stairways that will not be a permanent part of the structure must be at least 30 inches in the direction of travel and extend at least 22 inches in width at every 12 feet or less of vertical rise.
  • Stairs will be installed between 30 deg. and 50 deg. from horizontal. Riser height and tread depth shall be uniform within each flight of stairs, including any foundation structure used as one or more treads of the stairs. Variations in riser height or tread depth shall not be over ¼-inch in any stairway system.
  • Where doors or gates open directly on a stairway, a platform must be provided, and the swing of the door cannot reduce the width of the platform to less than 20 inches.
  • Metal pan landings and metal pan treads, when used, will be secured in place before filling with concrete or other material.
  • All parts of stairways must be free of hazardous projections, such as protruding nails.
  • Slippery conditions on stairways must be eliminated before the stairways are used to reach other levels.


  • Except during construction of the actual stairway, stairways with metal pan landings and treads will not be used where the treads and/or landings have not been filled in with concrete or other material, unless the pans of the stairs and/or landings are temporarily filled in with wood or other material. All treads and landings must be replaced when worn below the top edge of the pan.
  • Except during construction of the actual stairway, skeleton metal frame structures and steps must not be used (where treads and/or landings are to be installed later) unless the stairs are fitted with secured temporary treads and landings. Temporary treads must be made of wood or other solid material, and installed the full width and depth of the stair.


  • Stairways having four or more risers, or rising more than 30 inches in height, whichever is less, must have at least one handrail. A stair rail also must be installed along each unprotected side or edge. When the top edge of a stair rail system also serves as a handrail, the height of the top edge must not be more than 37 inches nor less than 36 inches from the upper surface of the stair rail to the surface of the tread.
  • Winding or spiral stairways must be equipped with a handrail to prevent using areas where the tread width is less than 6 inches.
  • Stair rails must not be less than 36 inches in height.
  • Screens or mesh, when used, must extend from the top rail to the stairway step, and along the opening between top rail supports.
  • Intermediate vertical members, such as balusters, when used, must not be more than 19 inches apart.
  • Other intermediate structural members, when used, must be installed so that there are no openings of more than 19 inches wide.


  • Handrails and the top rails of the stair rail systems must be capable of withstanding, without failure, at least 200 pounds of weight applied within 2 inches of the top edge in any downward or outward direction, at any point along the top edge.
  • The height of handrails must not be more than 37 inches nor less than 30 inches from the upper surface of the handrail to the surface of the tread.
  • The height of the top edge of a stair rail system used as a handrail must not be more than 37 inches nor less than 36 inches from the upper surface of the stair rail system to the surface of the tread.
  • Stair rail systems and handrails must be surfaced to prevent injuries such as punctures or lacerations and to keep clothing from snagging.
  • Handrails must provide an adequate handhold for employees to grasp to prevent falls.
  • The ends of stair rail systems and handrails must not have dangerous projections such as rails protruding beyond the end posts of the system.
  • Temporary handrails must have a minimum clearance of 3 inches between the handrail and walls; stair rails systems, and other objects.
  • Unprotected sides and edges of stairway landings must have a standard 42-inch guardrail system.

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