Proper Ladder Selection

Proper ladder selection and usage is a work practice that can help reduce the risk of falls.


Select ladders to match the locations where they will be used, the tasks they will be used for, and the stress they will be placed under.  Use only ladders that meet OSHA requirements. Consider using aerial lifts, scaffolding or roof-top delivery when the work is extensive, involves lifting heavy tools or materials, or requires extensive reaching. Do not use metal ladders where contact with an electrical source is likely. 

Select ladders that are long enough to be erected at a 4:1 height-to-horizontal distance ratio. Allow at least 3 feet beyond the top support if the ladder is used to access a higher level. For extension ladders allow for sufficient overlap between sections. When workers will use the ladder as a work platform it should be long enough that they will need to stand no higher than two steps below the top and will not need to reach more than 4 feet above the top.

A ladder must have enough rated strength to support the biggest worker who might use it, as well as his tools and materials. Use at least type I ladders (250 lb rating) on construction sites.

Use fiberglass, not metal, if the ladder will be near an electrical source. Never allow any ladder to touch an electrical source since any ladder may conduct electricity, especially if wet or dirty.

When a ladder must be set on uneven surfaces, on steps, or against poles, edges or openings, use an adjustable ladder, levelers, stabilizer or other attachments to match the ladder to the supporting surfaces.

Werner Ladders provides an excellent guide to ladder selection.

Easy to use guides to ladder selection and use are provided by OSHA and CCOHS.

Risks Addressed:

Workers climbing ladders often work above ground levels which may be at risk of falling from heights.  The improper use of these equipment may pose a safety hazard. The result of such fall can potentially cause fractures, sprains, strains, contusions, severe damage to internal organs and even death.

How Risks are Reduced:

Properly selected ladders can be erected and used safely by crafts workers, greatly reducing the risk of falls and other injuries. 

Effects on Productivity:

Using the right ladder allows the job to procede without delays for improvision.  Workers who have a secure work platform can concentrate on the task.

Additional Considerations:

Ladders should be inspected regularly by a competent person.

Superintendants, foremen and trades workers must be trained on the proper methods of ladder inspection, erection and use.

Hazards Addressed:


CPWR Hazard Alert
To obtain information, visit Ladders and Scaffolds or contact 1-301-578-8500

Easy-to-use guides to ladder selection
To obtain information, visit OSHA eTool Ladder Safety and CCOHS Ladder or contact 1-800-321-OSHA (6742)

Return on Investment

To find out the potential return on investment (ROI) for this solution, please visit our Return on Investment Calculator. Using the right ladder allows the job to procede without delays for making improvisions or for accidents.  Workers who have a secure work platform can concentrate on the task.  Return on investment is improved by proper storage and transport of the ladder that reduces warping and deterioration.  Guidelines for storage, transport, and inspection can be found at CCOHS.