General Safety Requirements for Portable Ladders
Portable ladders should be inspected at frequent, regular intervals
and maintained in good condition free from oil, grease, or other slippery
materials. Defective ladders should be removed from service until
repaired. Those which cannot be repaired should be destroyed.
Care should be taken while setting up ladders, ensuring that a proper
angle is maintained. A simple rule for setting up a ladder is to place
the base out from vertical a distance of one-fourth the length of
the ladder. For example, if a ladder is being used to reach a height
of 8 feet, the base should be set out 2 feet from vertical to achieve
a proper angle. Ladders should always be placed on stable bases. Boxes,
barrels, or other unstable surfaces should never be used to obtain
additional height. Additionally, ladders should not be placed on slippery
surfaces unless secured by holding or lashing.
Portable Wooden Ladders
Portable wooden ladders should be maintained free of sharp edges,
splinters, and other visual defects. Each ladder should be inspected
before use for shake, compression failures, decay, or other irregularities
and removed from service if found defective. Wooden ladders should
never be painted, as paint may hide defects that could lead to ladder
Wooden step ladders may not exceed 20 feet in length. Single-section
portable ladders may not exceed 30 feet in length, while two-section
portable ladders may not exceed 60 feet in length.
As with wooden ladders, portable metal ladders should be inspected
before use and removed from service if found defective. Because metal
ladders will easily conduct electricity, they must never be used for
work on or near exposed electrical conductors.
Metal step ladders are not to exceed 20 feet in length. Single-section
ladders are not to exceed 30 feet in length, while two-section ladders
are not to exceed 48 feet in length. Portable metal ladders with more
than two sections are not to exceed 60 feet in length.
Training should cover the proper use, inspection of, and hazards
related to portable ladders. Those who use ladders near exposed electrical
conductors operating at 50 volts or more should also receive training
in Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices (see Section
B2, Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices).
Contact an EHS Safety Engineer at 258-5294.
A Portable Ladder Safety Self-Audit Checklist is available through
EHS or may be downloaded either as a PDF
or a customizable Word document.
The following model programs are available through EHS:
A wide variety of informational handouts on ladder safety are available
through EHS. Additional references available through EHS include: