Ladder Safety

Falls are a leading cause of death in the construction industry, and the misuse of ladders is one of the leading causes of fall-related injuries each year. Contributing factors may include haste, sudden movement, lack of attention, the condition of the ladder, the type of footwear worn and the user’s age and/or physical condition.

According to national data analyzed by researchers at an Ohio hospital, more than 2.1 million people were treated in hospital emergency rooms between 1990 and 2005. That averages out to more than 136,000 cases a year. Almost 10 percent of those 2.1 million people required hospitalization, about twice the overall admission rate for consumer product related injuries. Fractures were the most common injury, with legs and feet the most frequently injured body parts.

A ladder is a potentially dangerous tool. Misusing that tool can lead to severe injury, even death. Luckily, basic safety rules that apply to most tools also apply to the safe use of ladders. Here are a few things to do prior to getting on a ladder:

  • Inspect the ladder to confirm it is in good working condition. Do not use a ladder with loose or missing parts, or a rickety ladder that sways or leans to the side.
  • Select the proper size ladder for the job. Ensure the length of the ladder is sufficient so the climber does not have to stand on the top rung or step.
  • Lock, block open or guard doors that can be opened toward a ladder.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes with heavy soles, and clean the soles to maximize traction.
  • Read the safety information labels on the ladder.

Use common sense when setting a ladder up for use:

  • Place the ladder on firm, level ground and ensure no slippery condition is present at either the base or top support points.
  • Extend the ladder base back one foot for every four feet in height, and three feet above the surface. Tie off the ladder at the top.
  • Ensure two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand are touching the ladder.
  • Use your utility belt – not your hands – to carry tools or materials up a ladder.
  • Make sure the bottom of the ladder is secure.


Table 1
Type Capable of Supporting Related Use
TYPE 1AA 375 lbs. Extra Heavy Duty Industrial
TYPE 1A 300 lbs. Extra Heavy Duty Industrial
TYPE 1 250 lbs. Heavy Duty Industrial
TYPE 11 225 lbs. Medium Duty Commercial
TYPE 111 200 lbs. Light Duty Household


Worker injury can be minimized by following basic safety rules, using common sense and approaching ladder safety with the same caution as any other potentially dangerous tool.