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Ladder safety is an issue at work and at home. Requirements in the workplace can serve as a useful guide for ladder use at home. The following tips are adapted from OSHA's ladder standard. A few of the standard's provisions:
  • Both foldout (self-supporting) and leaning ladders should be able to support four times the maximum intended load. The exception to this is extra-heavy-duty metal or plastic ladders, which must be able to support 3.3 times the maximum intended load.

  • Ladders that lean against a wall or other support should be positioned at an angle that places the base of the ladder a quarter of the distance of its total height away from that support. So, for example, the base of a twelve foot leaning ladder should be positioned so its base is three feet away from the wall.

  • For non-commercial wooden ladders (that is, that have been made for the job) the angle should equal about 1/8 of the distance to minimize strain on ladder joints.

  • Position portable ladders so the side rails extend at least 3 feet above the landing.

  • Secure side rails at the top to a rigid support and use a grab device when 3-foot extension is not possible.

  • Foldout or stepladders should have a metal spreader or locking device to hold the front and back sections in an open position when in use.

  • Ladder rungs, cleats or steps should be parallel, level and uniformly spaced, between 10 and 14 inches apart. For extension trestle ladders, the spacing should be 8-18 inches apart on the base and 6-12 inches on the extension section. Rungs must be skid-resistant and shaped so that an employee's foot can't slip off.

  • Ladders must be kept free of oil, grease, wet paint and other slipping hazards, and must not be coated.
Additional tips from the National Safety Council:
  • Don't put a ladder in front of a door unless the door can be locked, blocked or guarded.
  • Make sure both side rails of the ladder have secure, level footing.
  • If you're using a ladder up high, secure it top to bottom so it won't slip.
  • Keep ladders away from electrical wiring or any operational piping, such as acid, chemical, or sprinkler systems.