Fall prevention is a key element of workplace safety, especially in industries such as construction. Knowing the ins and outs of the different types of ladders per OSHA not also helps you stay compliant but it’s also a great way to improve safety in your organization. It also makes a great topic for your safety moment of the day.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have issued a set of standards for ladder use. In this article, you will find out more about the requirements for businesses that use ladders on site, how to use them safely, and the different types of ladders per OSHA standards and ANSI.
What Are the ANSI Requirements?
The American Ladder Institute (ALI) develops safety standards on behalf of ANSI. These provide rules for designing, producing, testing, and using each different type of ladder. There are subcommittees of industry experts tasked with creating each of the different sets of requirements, which are:
- A14.1 – Portable Wood Ladders – 2018
- A14.2 – Portable Metal Ladders – 2017
- A14.3 – Fixed Ladders – 2008
- A14.4 – Job Made Ladders – 2018
- A14.5 – Reinforced Plastic Ladders – 2017
- A14.7 – Rolling Ladders – 2011
- A14.8 – Requirements for Ladder Accessories – 2020
- A14.9 – Disappearing Attic Stairways – 2019
- A14.11 – Stepstools – 2018
The ALI reviews these standards on a five-year basis.
ANSI also issues ratings for ladders, which tell the user what jobs they are suitable for and what the maximum load is of that particular ladder. Here is a table featuring the rating, load capacity, and advised use.
Construction and Industrial – Heavy Duty
Construction and Industrial – Extra Heavy Duty
Construction and Industrial – Extra Heavy Duty
Tradespeople and Farm
Household – Light Duty
*Load Capacity includes the user and the materials they carry.
What Are the OSHA Regulations for Ladders?
The OSHA regulations for ladders cover four main areas:
- Marking Requirements
There are a number of marking and labeling requirements that ladder manufacturers must adhere to. These include the type of ladder, its size, maximum length, the highest standing level possible, its model number, the number and length of any sections, when it was manufactured, by whom and where they are based, as well as guidance for how to use it safely and any other appropriate warning notices.
- Material Guidelines
There are no material guidelines for metal ladders, but they do apply to wooden, fiberglass, and plastic ladders. For wooden ladders, there are only certain species of wood allowable, and there are rules on the grain, compression, knot, and other characteristics. The guidelines also set out the conditions and environments that should determine the choice of suitable ladder material.
- Construction Requirements
The construction requirements refer to the Type ratings of portable ladders in the table above. They determine the maximum load and recommended uses for each different type of ladder.
- Test Requirements
Each of the three different ladder materials – wood, metal, and plastic – require varying tests to prove their strength, bend resistance, and the quality of the parts used in their manufacture. OSHA sets out the different tests required.
Ladder Types Per OSHA
Type of Ladder
Features one or more pairs of locking hinges, allowing different configurations. Manufacturers design them to lock in the correct angles for each position.
Cleat Ladder/Single Cleat Ladder
The cleat is the crosspiece on which the user steps while ascending or descending the ladder.
Similar to a single-cleat ladder, but with a central rail splitting it into two parts and allowing two people to use the ladder independently.
In two or more sections, using brackets or guides to allow the user to adjust the length of the ladder.
Extension Trestle Ladders
A self-supporting ladder with a trestle base. The extension section comes up vertically and is lockable. Often used in pairs to support a scaffold platform.
A ladder that is permanently attached to a surface. It could be to a building or other structure, or a piece of equipment.
Folding and Platform Ladders
Folding ladders adjust around one or more hinges, and can be used as a trestle as well as in pairs to support a platform.
A temporary ladder built on-site and used for access to an area, not as a work platform itself. It is only active until workers complete that task.
Mobile Ladder Stands and Mobile Ladder Stand Platforms
These are moveable staircases to provide a work platform at height and can be used by more than one worker.
Any ladder that workers can carry or move around the site.
Side-Step Fixed Ladder
A fixed ladder where the user must step to the side of the rails to reach the platform at the top.
A ladder that supports itself, with a hinged back along with flat steps.
Similar to a step ladder, but with side rails.
Straight or Single Ladders
A non-self supporting ladder that contains no additional sections and is non-adjustable.
Another term for an extension ladder.
Temporary Service Stairway
A staircase in place of platforms or treads that are yet to be built.
Through Fixed Ladder
These require the user to step through the side rails of the ladder in order to enter the platform.
Contains a flared base and a tripod pole that slightly penetrate soft ground to provide support when used outdoors.
There are two main factors that play into your ladder selection decision. In order to use a ladder in the safest way possible, you should look into the weight capacity, as well as the reach and height that you require.
Choosing the Right Weight Capacity
Manufacturers create ladders to hold a certain maximum weight, which you need to consider when you make your ladder selection. It is important that you factor in both the weight of the user and the weight of any goods, materials, or tools that they will transport up and down the ladder, as the stated capacity of the ladder is the total amount of weight it can bear.
This weight capacity is known as the duty rating of the ladder.
Each of the different types of ladders as categorized by ANSI carries a different duty rating and, therefore, are suitable for different environments, from carrying bricks on building sites to changing light bulbs in the home.
Choosing the Right Ladder Reach/Height
The height or reach of the ladder you need for a job depends on the requirements of that task. You should be able to carry out your duties while remaining securely balanced at all times.
If you pick an extension or straight ladders, you need an extra three feet above the highest contact point or support on the surface on which you are working. If the ladder is longer than 48 feet, this minimum clear distance should extend to six feet.
The highest rung on which you can safely stand is four from the top of the ladder.
With this in mind, you need a height of ladder that can accommodate this while still allowing you to carry out your job. On a step ladder, you should stand no higher than two steps from the top.
You also need to take into account the safe reaching distance from the highest safe point in the ladder. This is generally four feet. So, you should safely be able to reach as high as ten feet from a six-foot ladder.
Choosing the Right Ladder Material
When you choose between the different ladder materials, you need to take into account the environment in which you are working. Where there are extreme heat sources, you might want to avoid a metal ladder. For situations involving electrical wires, you could opt for a wooden ladder, as long as it hasn’t been exposed to moisture for long periods of time. Fiberglass is another option.
OSHA provides a number of recommendations for best practices in ladder use in its general requirements. They include advice on positioning, securing, and safe loads for ladders.
Position Ladders Correctly
Before you position your portable ladder, make sure there are no hazards above. These include electrical wires that might be in the vicinity. In addition, take a look to see if there is a risk that any other work on site might displace it. If so, select a different work area, or create a barricade to prevent anyone from coming too close.
You should place the ladder firmly on stable ground unless you have secured it at the top and the bottom. It should also not stand on any other item to extend its height. This includes boxes or crates.
Secure Ladders Properly
If you are using an extension ladder, you must engage all of the locks securely. Ensure the extension or single ladder passes three feet over the support point, and it is angled so that the base is a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the surface on which it leans.
Check to see that the ladder rungs, steps, and supports are dry and in good condition. Do not use it if there is any kind of grease or other slippery substance apparent. A competent person should also inspect the ladder thoroughly before every use. Take any damaged ladder out of service and label it “Dangerous: Do Not Use” until repaired.
If possible, secure the ladder at the top support to the structure on which you are working with rope or wire and ladder hooks. This will reduce movement at the top as you work. If you can’t attach it to the surface, use a ladder stabilizer that increases the surface area of the ladder in contact with the structure, making it safer.
Working on Ladders
You should only ever adjust a ladder when you are standing at the base. Do not attempt to do so while on the ladder at all. Only one person should use a ladder at a time unless it is a specific model for multiple workers.
Ascend and descend while facing the climbing side of the ladder and keep a three-point contact on it. This means one hand and two feet or one foot and two hands must be on the ladder at all times. Use the middle of the step and avoid leaning too far to the side. As a rule of thumb, your navel shouldn’t pass outside of the side rail.
You shouldn’t carry heavy loads up or down the ladder and should transport your tools and other equipment in a tool belt or hoist.
Do Not Overload the Ladder
Overloading the ladder is extremely dangerous, so take into account the clothed weight of the worker and the tools and materials they will use while on the ladder. Workers should avoid carrying items as they climb and descend the ladder, using a hoist instead. If they need to carry certain items, it is often better to make two trips safely, rather than risk being overloaded on a single journey.
What is the 4-1 Rule for Ladders?
The base of the ladder should be one foot from the surface for every four feet it reaches upwards. This is the optimum ratio for a stable ladder. The rungs are generally a foot apart, so some people calculate this based on that rule.
What does the duty rating mean on ladders?
The duty rating is essentially the load capacity of the ladder, taking into account both the worker and the items they carry.
How often do you need a ladder inspection?
You should inspect the ladder before each use to make sure it is damage-free and clean. If there are any defects, you need to remove it from use immediately, as it is a hazard that could cause an employee injury. If a ladder falls or someone drops it, give it an inspection before using it again. In addition, check a ladder before storing it to check whether it is in good condition and will be suitable for use again in time.
In order to fulfill your fall prevention obligations, you need to be aware of the regulatory requirements for safe use surrounding ladders. With such activities on site, there are always risks of falling and so your workplace must be up to date on all the relevant regulations and best practices to make it as safe as possible. Knowing the different types of ladders per OSHA, how to position them, secure them, and use them safely should form a key part of your safety training.