11.16 – Ladder Safety

POLICY: It is the policy of Spoon River College to ensure that employees use ladders safely and that ladders are in proper condition for safe use.


This policy applies to all Spoon River College employees using ladders.


Fixed ladder: A ladder, including an individual rung ladder, which is permanently attached to a structure, building, or equipment. It does not include ship’s stairs or manhole steps.

Ladder: A device typically used to gain access to a different elevation consisting of two or more structural members crossed by rungs, steps, or cleats.

Portable ladder: A ladder that can readily be moved or carried, usually consisting of side rails joined at intervals by step, rungs, cleats, or rear braces.


  1. General Ladder Safety:
    1. Reject and tag ladder out of service that has defects. Have ladder repaired or discarded if beyond repair.
    2. Use the ladder designed for your tasks. Consider strength, type, and height. For step ladders, use a ladder that is 3 feet shorter than the highest point you have to reach.
    3. Get help when handling a heavy or long ladder (10 feet or more).
    4. Keep ladder away from electrical wires. Check for overhead electrical wires before setting up. Ensure that all electrical equipment used during ladder work is in good condition and properly grounded.
    5. Tie off ladder at the top and secure bottom to prevent it from slipping. Clear the area around the base and top of the ladder of debris, tools, and other objects. Keep step ladders close to your work; don’t overreach.
    6. Set up barricades and warning signs when using a ladder in a doorway or passageway. Do not place a ladder against flexible or moveable surfaces or erect on unstable surfaces.
    7. Clean muddy or slippery boot/shoe soles before climbing the ladder. Avoid climbing with wet soles.  Ensure that footwear is in good condition.
    8. Face the ladder when ascending or descending and when working from it.
    9. Keep the center of your body within the side rails.
    10. Ensure that only one person is on a single-width ladder.
    11. Maintain three points of contact by keeping two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand on the ladder at all times.
    12. Grasp the rungs when climbing, not the side rails. Do not carry objects in your hands while on the ladder.
    13. Do not work from the top three rungs of a portable ladder. Do not climb or sit on top two steps of step ladders.
  2. Inspection of Ladders: Prior to use of any ladder, an inspection must be performed (using the ladder inspection form below).
    1. Carefully examine the ladder for broken or missing rungs or cleats, broken side rails, and other damaged parts.
    2. All cleats, rungs, and side rails must be free of grease, oil, paint, or other slippery substances.
    3. The ladder should be equipped with feet that are secured in place.
    4. The joint between steps and side rails must be tight, and all hardware and fittings should be attached firmly. Movable parts should operate freely without binding or undue play.
    5. All wood parts must be free of sharp edges and splinters.
    6. Visually inspect the ladder to be free of shakes, warpage, decay or other irregularities.
    7. Metal ladders must be free of sharp edges, burrs and corrosion.
    8. Inspect for dents or bends in side rails, rungs or cleats.
    9. Check step to side rail connections, hardware connections and rivets.
    10. If a ladder tips over, inspect the ladder for damage before continuing work.
  3. Ladder Types:
    1. Portable Ladders: The proper ladder must be selected for the task. General rules include the following:
      1. The ladder chosen must be long enough to provide access to the work area without necessitating standing on the top two steps of a stepladder or the top three rungs of a straight ladder.
      2. The ladder selected must be sufficient for the weight of the employee plus the weight of any tools and materials.
      3. When a straight ladder is used to gain access to a roof, the side rails should extend at least three feet above the support point at the eave, gutter, or roof line.
      4. Never splice together short ladders to form a longer ladder.
      5. Never place ladders on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases for additional height.
      6. Ladders must be placed on level surfaces. Although ladder feet or shoes provide an important measure of safety, they cannot compensate for uneven ground unless they are designed with adjustable feet.
      7. Be alert to slippery surfaces. Nonslip bases are not a substitute for safety in placing, lashing, or holding a ladder on oily, metal, concrete, or other slippery surfaces.
      8. Do not use ladders for unintended purposes.
      9. Do not use a metal ladder when working on or near electrical equipment.
      10. The distance from the bottom of a straight ladder to its support wall shall be one-quarter the working length of the ladder.
      11. Where possible, straight ladders should be secured with a rope or wire at the top and blocked at the bottom.
      12. The top two steps and platform of a stepladder shall not be used, and the top three rungs of a straight ladder shall not be used.
      13. Do not over-reach, jump, or slide a ladder while on it. Ladders shall not be moved, shifted, or extended while occupied.
      14. Always face the ladder and use both hands while ascending or descending.
      15. Tools or materials should be raised by means of a rope after the climber has reached the working position. Carrying heavy loads up or down ladders is prohibited.
      16. Barricades and warning signs should be posted when ladders are placed near doors or other locations where they could be struck.
      17. Two workers shall handle and set up all extension ladders.
      18. Ladders should not be used by more than one person at a time unless they are designed for such use.
      19. The bracing on the back side rails of stepladders is designed only for increasing stability, not for climbing.
      20. Ladders shall not be used horizontally as platforms, runways, or scaffolds. Extension ladders must have proper overlap.
        • Three foot overlap for 32 foot ladder;
        • Four foot overlap for 32 to 36 foot ladder;
        • Five foot overlap for 36 to 48 foot ladder; and
        • Six foot overlap for 48 foot ladder;
      21. Make certain that both automatic locks of the extension ladder are in proper position before ascending the ladder.
      22. Straight ladders and stepladders that exceed 10 feet may be held by another person for steadying.
      23. The area around the top and bottom of the ladder shall be kept clear.
      24. Hard hats must be worn within an area beneath elevated work where objects could fall from a height and strike a worker.
    2. Fixed Ladders:
      1. Fixed ladders should be designed to withstand a single concentrated load of at least 200 lbs.
      2. Rungs of metal ladders must have minimal diameter of three-quarters inch. Rungs must be at least 16 inches wide, be spaced 12 inches apart.
      3. Fixed Ladders, when their location so demands, must be painted or treated with a preservative to resist deterioration.
      4. The preferred pitch for a safe descent is 75 to 90 degrees. Ladders with 90­degree pitch must have two and one half feet of clearance on the climbing side. There must be a three foot clearance on ladders with a 75 degree pitch.
      5. There must be at least a seven inch clearance in back of the ladder to provide adequate toe space.
      6. There must be a clear width of 15 inches on each side of the center line of the ladder, unless the ladder is equipped with a cage or well.
      7. Fixed ladders must have cages if they are longer than 20 feet. Landing platforms must be provided on ladders greater than 20 feet long. A platform is required every 30 feet for caged ladders and every 20 feet for unprotected ladders; and
      8. Side rails must extend at least 42 inches above the landing.
  4. Maintenance of Ladders:
    1. Damaged ladders must be withdrawn from service and either repaired or destroyed. When a defect or unsafe condition is found, personnel should tag or mark the ladder so that it will not be used until the corrective action is taken.
    2. If exposed to greases, oils, or other slippery substances, the ladder must be cleaned of the substance with solvents or steam. If the slippery substance is not completely removed, the ladder must be removed from service.
  5. Storage of Ladders: Ladders should be stored where they can be inspected easily and can be reached without causing accidents.
  6. Training: Training can be requested through the Human Resources Office.
    1. All employees who use ladders with a working height of six feet or more shall be knowledgeable of the following:
      1. How to inspect ladders for visible defects.
      2. How to use ladders properly.