Ladder Safety

By John Howell

Ladders must be selected based on hazards and tasks. Also, ladders require maintenance in order to function properly. Each ladder type requires different inspection criteria and maintenance. If a ladder is neglected, it may become unsafe to use. For this reason, it is extremely important that ladders are inspected prior to each use and repaired periodically.

Types of ladders:

Stepladder users must be able to reach about four feet from the top of the ladder while standing on the second step from the top. Extension ladders must be 7 – 10 feet longer than the vertical distance to the highest contact point on a structure.

Wood ladders are solidly constructed of straight grain materials and free from defects. Side rails must be perfectly smooth and free from slivers. Wood ladders provide insulation against heat and cold, but tend to age quickly when left untreated.
Metal ladders must be of sufficient cross-section strength to prevent extreme deflection when in use. Rungs are corrugated, coated with skid-resistant materials, or otherwise treated to minimize slipping.
Metal and aluminum ladders are marked to warn against use around electricity.
Aluminum ladders are lightweight and resistant to corrosion; however, they conduct electricity and do not insulate against heat or cold.
Fiberglass ladders are weather-resistant, durable, and non-conductive when clean and dry. These ladders are very heavy and tend to chip and crack when handled improperly.

Duty Rating:
Light Duty (III):  200 pounds
Medium duty (II):  225 pounds
Heavy duty (I):  250 pounds
Extra heavy duty (I-A):  300 pounds
Special duty (IAA): 375 pounds
Never use a ladder for more than its intended duty.

Inspect ladders for:
  • Loose, split, cracked, or missing rungs.
  • Lost or damaged feet—if the ladder is equipped with them.
  • Any signs of rot on wood ladders.
  • Cracks on any sections such as the rails and steps.
  • Loose, missing, or damaged parts.
  • Repairs and assure they meet the original design criteria.
  • Oil, grease, and other potential slipping hazards.
  • Weathering, fiber bloom, cracks, and other defects on fiberglass ladders.
General maintenance:
  • Inspect your ladder prior to each use.
  • Clean and lubricate moving parts.
  • Replace worn parts and labels according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep ladders away from heat sources and corrosive substances.
  • Assure that all rungs are parallel, level, and uniformly spaced.
  • Take damaged ladders out of service, and mark “Do Not Use”. If ladders are taken out of service, assure they are destroyed to prevent further use.
  • Use ladders only for their intended purpose.
  • Periodically treat wooden ladders with a clear preservative such as varnish, shellac, or linseed oil.
  • Do not paint wooden ladders—paint can conceal structural defects.
  • Replace lower steps on wooden ladders when the step’s surface is worn.
  • Clean metal ladder rungs to prevent accumulation of materials that might destroy non-slip properties. Carefully check all metal fittings.
  • Store ladders under suitable cover for protection from the weather.
  • Support horizontally stored ladders at both ends as well as the intermediate points to prevent sagging, which will loosen the rungs and warp the rails.
  • Prohibit employees from using damaged ladders.


NOTE: Always promote a discussion on any of the topics covered in the Tool Box Talks. Should any question arise that you cannot answer, don’t hesitate to contact your Employer.


Shepformation... The Shepley Newletter

  • Civic Rent: Beer for a Good Cause

    Where to Buy Civic Rent is a limited edition lager

    Read More
  • COVID-19 Response & Updates

    At Shepley, nothing is more important to us than t

    Read More
  • Pay It Forward with House Wine at Luke’s

    Inspired by Shepley Wood Products & Barnstable

    Read More
  • Class of 2020 Flyover wins PRISM Award

    We are excited to share that Shepley Wood Products

    Read More

Newsletter Sign Up

Central Location:

Hyannis Office

216 Thornton Drive, Hyannis, MA 02601
Phone: 508-862-6200
Toll-free: 800-227-7969
Facsimile: 508-862-6012

Shepley Showcase

75 Ben Franklin Way, Hyannis, MA 02601
Phone: 508-862-6228
Toll-free: 877-909-7227
Facsimile: 508-862-6047

Nantucket Office

6 Lovers Lane, Nantucket, MA 02554
Phone: 508-325-0400
Facsimile: 508-325-0359

Wellfleet Office

2238 Route 6, Wellfleet, MA 02667
Phone: 508-349-2280
Facsimile: 508-349-3078