Ladder Safety


A number of questions are received each year concerning the safe use of ladders. The following safe practices address the placement and use of ladders. Review the Ladder Safety Program for additional information.


To provide ladder safety information to campus employees and in turn, comply with NCOSHA Standard 1910.25-27 "Portable and Fixed Ladders".


Supervisors and managers are responsible for training and insuring the safe use of ladders by employees in their workplace, thus complying with NCOSHA standards.

Portable Ladders

Safe Use Practices

  • Use the correct sized ladder for the job.
  • Do not allow more than one person at a time on a ladder.
  • Place the ladder base at a 1:4 ratio from the vertical (horizontal/vertical). For every 4 feet of working length the base of ladder should be 1 foot out from the top support.
  • Extend ladder 3 feet above the top support point. Securely lash or fasten ladder to prevent slipping or falling when using a ladder for access to high places.
  • Use ladders only in a vertical position. Ladders are not a substitute for a scaffold or a runway between two elevated surfaces.
  • Keep ladder directly off of window panes or sashes.
  • Keep ladders away from front of a door that opens toward the ladder unless the door is locked, blocked, or guarded.
  • Do not leave ladders unattended for others to use or climb upon.
  • Place a portable ladder so both side rails have secure footing. Provide solid footing on soft ground to prevent the ladder from sinking.
  • Place the ladder feet on a substantial and level base not on movable objects.
  • Lean ladder against secured backing.
  • Secure bottom and top of ladder to prevent displacement when using ladder for access to a scaffold.
  • Keep ladder away from electrical wiring. Use only wooden or fiberglass ladders when working around power lines or other electrical sources.
  • Do not use ladders during a strong wind except in emergency and only then when tied securely.


  • Keep ladders clean and grease free.
  • Always inspect ladders before use. Keep ladders clean and free from dirt and grease.
  • Make periodic ladder inspections for structural integrity.
  • Conduct quarterly inspections as a minimum. Record all inspections made.
  • Remove defective ladders from service when noted during inspection. Tag it with "DANGEROUS -DO NOT USE". Do not use until ladder is repaired.
  • Destroy any ladder that cannot be repaired.

Ascending/Descending Ladder

  • Use both hands on ladders at all times. Maintain a firm grip on the ladder.
  • Do not exceed manufacturer's weight capacity for the ladder.
  • Raise/lower materials by mechanical means. If necessary, carry tools in a tool belt, not your hands.
  • Keep the center of gravity centered as much as possible between the hands and the foot that is in contact with the ladder. Keep your belt buckle between the side rails.
  • Do not overreach. Move the ladder when you need to change position.
  • Always face the ladder going up or coming down.
  • Never slide down a ladder or jump from a ladder. Always dismount from the bottom rung.
  • Make sure shoe bottoms are not greasy, muddy, or slippery before you climb.
  • Do not climb higher than the third rung from the top on extension or straight ladders or the second tread from the top on step ladders. You are positioned too high on a stepladder if your knees are above the top step or you cannot maintain a handhold on the ladder.

Additional Safety Practices - Stepladders

  • Use a stepladder that is about 3 feet shorter than the highest point you have to reach. This provides a wider, more stable base and places the shelf at a convenient working height.
  • Do not use stepladders longer than 20 feet.
  • Make sure step ladders are fully opened and the metal spreader locked before you start to climb ladder.
  • Place stepladders at right angles to the work, with either the front or the back of steps facing the work. Keep the stepladder close to the work.
  • Avoid pushing or pulling stepladders from the side. Repeated sideways movement can make them wobbly. They are weaker or less stable in sideways directions.
  • Do not "shift" or "walk" the stepladder when standing on it.
  • Do not stand, climb, or sit on the stepladder top or pail shelf.
  • Do not overload the stepladder. They are intended for use by one person.
  • Do not use a stepladder as a brace or as a support for a work platform or a plank, unless the ladder is specifically designed or approved.
  • Do not climb a stepladder that is leaning against a wall. Use a straight ladder.
  • Do not place stepladders on boxes, unstable bases, or scaffolds to gain additional height.
  • Do not climb the back of a stepladder.
  • Do not use stepladders in passageways, corridors, hallways, doorways, driveways, or other locations where a person or vehicle can hit it. Set up physical barriers or obstructions, or lock doors shut to avoid being struck.
  • Inspect stepladders routinely for structural defects or accidental hazards, such as sharp edges, burrs, etc. Be sure they are corrosion resistant and kept free from nicks. Treat nicks promptly to prevent possible metal fatigue due to rust.

Fixed Ladders


Fixed ladders cannot be moved. These ladders provide access to specific elevated locations. All fixed ladders over 20 feet in length must have a cage or well.

Other Characteristics

  • The preferred vertical pitch of fixed ladders shall be in the range of 75 degrees and 90 degrees. Ladders having a pitch in excess of 90 degrees with the are prohibited.
  • Designed to bear a load of 200 pounds
  • Minimum 3/4 inch rung diameter on metal ladders and a minimum diameter of 1 1/8 inches for wood ladders.
  • Minimum clear length of rungs shall be 16 inches.
  • Rungs and steps are to be spaced no more than 12 inches apart and uniform throughout the length of the ladder.
  • Side rails of through or side-step ladder extensions shall extend 3 ½ feet above parapets and landings.
  • Provide a minimum clearance of 2 ½ feet on the climbing side of ladders with a 90 degree pitch and 3feet on the climbing side of ladders with a 75 degree pitch.
  • Provide a clear width of 15 inches on each side of the center line of ladder in the climbing space, except when cages or wells are necessary.
  • Provide a minimum of 7 inch clearance in the back of the ladder to assure adequate footing
  • Metal ladders must be painted or appropriately treated to prevent deterioration if conditions indicate. On ladders embedded in concrete in pits or other below ground areas, individual metal rungs must have a minimum diameter of 1 inch or shall be painted or otherwise treated to resist corrosion and rusting.
  • All ladders shall be maintained in a safe condition and regularly inspected to insure structural integrity.


Projects requiring the installation of fixed ladders must be done under the direction of a professional engineer. NC OSHA 1910.27 Sub-part D requirements will be followed.

When fixed ladders are used on towers, tanks, or chimneys, use appropriate ladder safety devices. A ladder safety device is an appliance that will arrest the fall of an individual working at elevated heights.

How Can I Find Out More?

Review Attachment 3 in the App State Fall Protection Plan if you need additional information concerning ladder safety. If you have additional questions, contact the Environmental Health Safety & Emergency Management Office at Extension 4008.