Ladders Safety Guide: How to Choose the Right Ladder for Your Project

Not all jobs are created equal. There are jobs where everything is within easy reach and you only need yourself and your tools. Some jobs require a bit more height. Ladders are the tool of choice for getting to hard to reach areas.

There are different types of ladders to meet every job requirement. However, each ladder has its own safety concerns, so it is important to understand what type to use for each job. Safety is important on your job site. Find out how to choose the right ladder for your project along with a ladder safety guide. Getting the job done right is important, but so is the safety of your workers, your clients, and yourself.

Types of Ladders

Knowing which ladder to use for whichever job you’re performing is important. It is best to understand which ladder servers which purpose. With that said, there are several types of ladders used on most job sites. The most common ladders you will run into are:

Step Ladders

These are some of the most common ladders you’ll see on the job site. They are self-supporting with fold-out support legs. Step Ladders can have rungs on both sides, or only one. If there are rungs on one side the second is for support only.

Extension Ladders

Extension ladders are what most people think of when they hear the term work ladder. Extension ladders must be supported against a stationary object for proper support.

Platform Ladders

Platform ladders are similar to a step ladder, but they have a platform at the top with safety rails. They offer a higher level of comfort because you’re not standing on rungs all day.

Folding Ladders

Folding ladders are smaller than step ladders. They are generally meant just to provide a small height boost. They have wider, larger stairs instead of rungs.


Safety is your primary concern on the job site. Following safety standards is essential to remain compliant. OSHA lists 5 Main Areas of Concern when it comes to ladder safety. Understanding and avoiding these concerns can be beneficial to everyone involved. These concerns are as follow:


  • Self-supporting ladders need to be able to support 4 times the maximum intended load
  • Plastic Ladders must be able to support 3.3 times the intended load
  • Each rung on the ladder must be able to support a concentrated load of 250 lbs in the middle of the rung


  • Non-self-supporting ladders are positioned so that the feet are no more than a quarter of the working distance from the top support
  • Purpose made wooden ladders should be positioned where the feet are no more than an eight the distance from the top support
  • Fixed ladders should have a pitch of no greater than 90 degrees


  • Ladder rungs, cleats, and steps must be parallel, level, and uniformly spaced
  • Rungs are normally spaced 10-14 inches apart
  • For extension trestles, the spacing must be 8-18 inches for the base and 6-12 inches for the extension section


  • Any type of oil, grease, or other substance is prohibited
  • Wooden ladders should have a clear coat or stain
  • The top support should extend 3 feet above the area to be accessed

Miscellaneous Requirements

  • Foldout ladders must have a locking spacer between the front and back supports
  • Keep all areas surrounding the ladder clear
  • Ladders are not to be tied or otherwise fastened together to make longer ladders

Some Do’s and Don’ts

All of the exact safety specifications and regulations are also found on the OSHA website, but here are a few simple do’s and don’ts to remember every time you go up on a ladder:


  • Select the proper ladder for the job
  • Inspect all ladders before use
  • Maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder at all times
  • Tools and materials should be kept in a belt or hauled up


  • Stand on the top rung of a ladder without a platform
  • Attempt to move or reposition the ladder while on it
  • Place a ladder on uneven ground or on any other object to gain more height
  • Tie multiple ladders together to make a longer ladder
  • Face away from the ladder while climbing down or performing work

Perhaps you thought that ladder safety and usage was common sense. Maybe you thought that all of your employees understood that each ladder serves their own purpose. However, it’s surprising to learn that 24 percent of accidents on a job site are caused by poor ladder usage. Having the proper equipment, safety, and training can help keep your job site accident free.

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