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Back to Misuse of Portable Ladders

Ladder Safety

The OSHA Standard for portable ladders contains specific requirements designed to ensure worker safety:


  • Self-supporting (foldout) and non-self-supporting (leaning) portable ladders must be able to support at least four times the maximum intended load, except extra-heavy-duty metal or plastic ladders, which must be able to sustain 3.3 times the maximum intended load. (See Figure 1.)
5-Step foldout ladder
Figure 1

Worker on a metal ladder leaning against the outside of a house
Figure 2

Close-up image of a metal step of a ladder
Figure 3

Close-up image of the middle of a metal foldout ladder
Figure 4

Metal stepladder with a middle locking device
Figure 5


  • Non-self-supporting ladders, which must lean against a wall or other support, are to be positioned at such an angle that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is about 1/4 the working length of the ladder. (See Figure 2.)

  • In the case of job-made wooden ladders, that angle should equal about 1/8 the working length. This minimizes the strain of the load on ladder joints that may not be as strong as on commercially manufactured ladders.


  • Ladder rungs, cleats, or steps must be parallel, level, and uniformly spaced when the ladder is in position for use. Rungs must be spaced between 10 and 14 inches apart.

  • For extension trestle ladders, the spacing must be 8-18 inches for the base, and 6-12 inches on the extension section.

  • Rungs must be so shaped that an employee's foot cannot slide off, and must be skid-resistant. (See Figure 3.)


  • Ladders are to be kept free of oil, grease, wet paint, and other slipping hazards.

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

Other Requirements

  • Foldout or stepladders must have a metal spreader or locking device to hold the front and back sections in an open position when in use. (See Figure 4.)

  • When two or more ladders are used to reach a work area, they must be offset with a landing or platform between the ladders.

  • The area around the top and bottom of ladder must be kept clear.

  • Ladders must not be tied or fastened together to provide longer sections, unless they are specifically designed for such use. (See Figure 5.)

  • Never use a ladder for any purpose other than the one for which it was designed.

BookAdditional Information:

Additional Examples

Worker improperly standing on the top rung of a stepladder working on a doorway of a building This is improperly using the top rung of this step ladder to work from.
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