Ladder Safety

How to Verify Portable Wood Ladders Compliance

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: March 19th, 2013
Topics: Ladders |

wooden ladders standardThe OSHA Portable Wood Ladders Standard (Section 1910.25) requires employers to ensure that wooden ladders are designed, constructed, used and maintained safely. Here are the 27 things you need to check to ensure you comply.

What the Standard Covers

The Standard applies to portable wood ladders used under normal conditions of usage, including 3 types of stepladders, i.e., self-supporting portable ladders that are nonadjustable in length which have flat steps and a hinged back.

  • Type I: Industrial stepladder, 3 to 20 feet for heavy duty, such as for utilities, contractors, and industrial use;
  • Type II: Commercial stepladder, 3 to 12 feet for medium duty, such as for painters, offices, and light industrial use; and
  • Type III: Household stepladder, 3 to 6 feet for light duty, such as for light household use.

The Standard does not apply to:

  • Special ladders;
  • Fruitpicker’s ladders;
  • Combination step and extension ladders;
  • Stockroom step ladders;
  • Aisle-way step ladders;
  • Shelf ladders; or
  • Library ladders.

Make Sure:

1. You keep all wood parts of portable wood ladders free of sharp edges and splinters.

2. All wood parts are sound and free from shake, wane, compression failures, decay and other irregularities and aren’t made of low density wood.

3. Stepladders:

  • Aren’t more than 20 feet long;
  • Follow uniform step spacing of no more than 12 inches;
  • Have steps which are parallel and level when the ladder’s in position for use;
  • Have a minimum width between side rails at the top, inside to inside, of no less than 11 ½ inches;
  •  Have side rails which spread from top to bottom at least 1 inch for each foot of length of stepladder; and
  • Have a metal spreader or locking device that’s large and strong enough to securely hold the front and back sections in open positions (with the spreader’s having all sharp points covered or removed).

4. You don’t use single portable rung ladders longer than 30 feet.

5. Two-section extension ladders are no longer than 60 feet and consist of two sections—one to fit within the side rails of the other and which are arranged so that the upper section can be raised and lowered.

6. You don’t use trestle ladders, or extension sections or base sections of extension trestle ladders longer than 20 feet.

7. Other special purpose ladders aren’t longer than the following:

Ladder Type

Length Doesn’t Exceed

Painter’s stepladders

12 feet

Mason’s ladders

40 feet

Trolley ladders

20 feet

Side-rolling ladders

20 feet

8. You maintain ladders in good condition at all times:

  • The joint between the steps and side rails is tight;
  • All hardware and fittings are securely attached;
  • All movable parts operate freely without binding or undue play;
  • Metal bearings of locks, wheels, pulleys, etc., are frequently lubricated;
  • You replace frayed or badly worn rope;
  • You keep safety feet and other auxiliary equipment in good condition;
  • You frequently inspect ladders are inspected frequently;
  • You take ladders with defects out of service for repair or destruction and tag or mark them as “Dangerous, Do Not Use”; and
  • Rungs are kept free of grease and oil.

9. Where possible, portable rung and cleat ladders are used at such a pitch that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is 1/4 of the working length of the ladder (the length along the ladder between the foot and the top support).

10. Ladders are placed to prevent slipping, lashed or held in position.

11. Ladders aren’t used in a horizontal position as platforms, runways, or scaffolds

12. Ladders subject to specific dimensions requirements aren’t used by more than one person at a time, nor used with ladder jacks and scaffold planks where use by more than one person is anticipated.

13. Portable ladders are placed so that the side rails have a secure footing.

14. The top rest for portable rung and cleat ladders is rigid and strong enough to support the applied load.

15. Ladders aren’t placed in front of doors opening toward the ladder unless the door is blocked, locked or guarded.

16. Ladders aren’t placed on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases to make them higher.

17. Ladders aren’t used if they have broken or missing steps, rungs or cleats, broken side rails or other faulty equipment unless and until proper repairs are made.

18. Short ladders aren’t spliced together to provide long sections.

19. Ladders made by fastening cleats across a single rail aren’t used.

20. Ladders aren’t used as guys, braces, or skids or for other than their intended use.

21. Tops of the ordinary types of stepladders aren’t used as steps.

22. Minimum overlap on two-section extension ladders meets the following standards:

Ladder Size (feet)

Overlap (feet)

Up to and including 36


Over 36 up to and including 48


Over 48 up to and including 60


23. Portable rung ladders with reinforced rails are used only with the metal reinforcement on the underside.

24. No ladder is used to gain access to a roof unless the top of the ladder extends at least 3 feet above the point of support, at eave, gutter or roof line.

25. Middle and top sections of sectional or window cleaner’s ladders aren’t used for bottom section unless they’re furnished with safety shoes.

26. Users equip portable rung ladders with nonslip bases if a slipping hazard exists—nonslip bases are not a substitute for careful placement.

27. The bracing on the back legs of step ladders isn’t used for climbing.

For More Help with Ladder Safety Compliance

Go to the SafetySmart Compliance Fall Protection Compliance Center for ladder safety compliance checklists: