Ladder Safety

Ladders are used across the College of Engineering campus and serve as a valuable tool to researchers and staff. However, they present an inherent hazard which if  used improperly may result in injury to its user or others in the surrounding work area.

Below is information outlining the hazards, types of ladders, and proper use of ladders.


The biggest and most obvious hazard associated with ladders, is falls from an elevated surface. Approximately 20% of all annual fall injuries involve a ladder. These can be caused by various reasons such as incorrect set-up, not maintaining three points of contact, losing ones balance, or by having the ladder struck by a person or object.

In some scenarios and environments, there is an electrocution risk associated with the use of a ladder. This usually occurs during the set-up process, when the user is not aware of electrified power lines above where they are placing the ladder and as a result, unintentionally make contact with the powerlines with their conductive ladder. According to the CDC, 10% of electrocution incidents that occur in the construction industry involve ladders.

Types of Ladders

Ladders come in a variety of sizes and ratings. It is important that the correct one is selected for the job in which it will be used for, and that its proper use and purpose is adhered to. Ratings have a corresponding weight limit which are as follows:

Ladders are generally constructed of either wood, metal, or fiberglass.

  • Portable Ladders

These are ladders that can be moved around and set-up to complete work or access and elevated surface. They often extend or fold out to suit the requirements of the work.

  • Fixed Ladders

These are ladders that are permanently attached to a piece of equipment, a building, or a structure.


Proper Use

The following are some guidelines that should be followed to ensure safe use of ladders.

  • Employees utilizing ladders must face the ladder when climbing
    up or down.
  • Maintain at least 3 points of contact with the ladder.
  • No employee shall carry any object or load that could cause the
    employee to lose balance and fall while climbing up or down the
  • The centerline of the user’s body must be maintained between
    the siderails (Belt buckle rule)


Prior to each use of a ladder, it is important to thoroughly inspect it for any damage or deficiencies that could potentially compromise the structural integrity of it, or lead to a user being injured. Below are some items to look out for when inspecting.

  • Loose rungs, bolts, screws, or any other metal or moving parts
  • Damage from corrosion
  • Bends, breaks, slips, or chips
  • Dented rungs or rails
  • Missing or illegible labels


Ensure that the ladder is on firm level ground. Level them if needed

Set-up the ladder so that there is a 4:1 ratio for the rise and run, or lean angle of 75 degrees (see image below).

To check that a ladder is at the correct angle, put your feet at the base of the ladder and extend your arm straight out. If you can touch the closest part of the ladder without bending your arm, or bending over, the ladder is at the correct angle. If not, the ladder is not at a safe angle (see image below).

If the ladder is placed in an area where it may be susceptible to being knocked over, such as near a doorway or blind walkway, block the pathway, lock the door, or post warning signage to inform individuals of the presence of a ladder.