Ladder Use Guidelines-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Ladder Use Guidelines

Nearly everyone is called on to use a ladder at some time. EH&S offers ladder safety and ladder & scaffolding safety training courses, which are recommended for anyone using a ladder in the course of their job. For others, the following guidelines should prove useful any time you find yourself needing to use a ladder.

  • Inspect ladders before using (make sure there are no breaks or cracks, all components must be in good working condition, no oil or grease on side rails or steps, no frayed or worn ropes, movable parts operate freely, no excessive wear, rungs securely attached to siderails, and are you using the proper ladder for the job?)
  • Before using a ladder, consider any external hazards: overhead obstructions, presence of electrical equipment, congested area, uneven surfaces, weather conditions, etc.
  • Never use a ladder that is too long or too short for what you are going to work on, and NEVER stand on a swivel chair, stool, desk, or other object when you need to reach something. Check the ladder’s load limits before putting it into service. Use this table to interpret the ladder rating that will be marked on the ladder somewhere:

CategoryWeight Limit, PoundsRating
Type I-AA 375 Special Duty
Type I-A 300 Heavy Duty Industrial
Type I 250 Heavy Duty
Type II 225 Medium Duty
Type III 200 Light Duty

Only Types I, I-A, or I-AA are to be used at CMU
  • Do not use ladders as a brace, platform, scaffold, plank, or lever, and do not use the rungs for storage.
  • Never use a metal ladder near electrical sources, don’t use step ladders as straight ladders (i.e., leaned against the wall), and don’t tie ladders together to make a longer ladder.
  • If you have to use a ladder near a doorway, take one or more of these precautionary steps to make sure nobody comes through the door and knocks you from the ladder: lock the door, put up barricades, secure the ladder, and/or have somebody stand watch to warn others that a ladder is in use.
  • Set up straight ladders using the 4 to 1 rule: 1 foot from the wall for every 4 feet of the ladder’s working length.
  • When using a stepladder, open it fully, place it on a solid surface, and make sure the spreaders are locked into position. Do not stand on the top two rails, and never stand on the back section.
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