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November 15, 2021
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Portable Ladder Safety

Portable ladders are used in most workplaces. Improper use and selection of portable ladders can lead to injury.

Consider the following safe practices:

  • Portable ladders must be inspected prior to initial use in each work shift and more frequently when necessary. The purpose of the inspection is to identify visible defects that could cause injury. Any ladder with structural or other types of defects must be immediately removed from service. This requires placing a tag on the ladder indicating "Dangerous: Do Not Use" or similar wording.
  • Workers using portable ladders must face the ladder when climbing. They must also use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when climbing up and down the ladder. Always avoid carrying objects that prevent the hand from contacting the ladder rungs.
  • Portable ladders should never be loaded past their maximum intended load. The maximum intended load is defined as the total load of the employee and all tools, equipment and materials being carried. The maximum intended load or capacity can be found on the ladder's label.
  • Portable ladders should only be used on stable or level surfaces unless they are adequately secured and stabilized to prevent accidental displacement.
  • Portable ladders should never be moved, shifted, or extended while an employee is on the ladder. In addition, ladders placed in locations such as passageways, doorways, or driveways where they can be subject to displacement from activities or traffic should be secured against accidental displacement or guarded by a temporary barricade.
  • Always place non-self-supporting ladders, such as extension ladders,s o that both side rails are properly supported. Portable ladders used to gain access to an upper landing surface must be positioned so that the side rails extend at least three (3) feet or 0.9 meters above the upper landing surface.
  • The proper angle of the ladder is based on a four-to-one ratio. For every four feet of ladder, the base or feet of the ladder must be positioned one foot away from the point at which the ladder is supported.


This Safety Tip of the Week originally published June 18, 2018.

Source: Joe Mlynek is president of Progressive Safety Services LLC, Port Clinton, OH:, and content creation expert for Safety Made Simple Inc., Olathe, KS;



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Safety Tip of the Week is edited by Managing Editor Tucker Scharfenberg and published each Monday by Grain Journal, Decatur, IL

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