Portable Ladder Safety Guide (Spanish)
Poster: Ladder Safety - Three Points of Contact 
Poster: Ladder Safety - What's Your Angle?
Poster: Ladder Safety - Stats One
Poster: Ladder Safety - Stats Two
Poster: Ladder Safety - Zero Mistakes
Poster: Ladder Safety - Stay On Your Feet

Most of us use ladders from time to time. However, few of us take time to review the basics of ladder safety. The following guidelines can help those who use ladders to do so properly and prevent injuries.

General Guidelines

  • Avoid climbing unless absolutely necessary.
  • Select the proper ladder for the job, (i.e., aluminum, wood, fiberglass, step, extension, or straight ladder). For instance, never use an aluminum ladder around electricity.
  • Choose a ladder that fits the job. If ladders are too short, people will climb too high, leaving them without proper handholds. Ladders that are too long are difficult to handle. They also tend to be erected askew and may be highly unstable.
  • Never use a ladder for a purpose for which it is not designed.
  • Inspect the ladder’s condition before use. Discard any damaged ladders.
  • Wear slip-resistant footwear.

Ladders should be inspected and documented by a competent person on a periodic basis. Items to look for should include:

  • Any structural damage such as cracks, bends, kinks, or distortions
  • All rungs are in place, secure, and free of grease or oil
  • Safety feet are functional and in good condition
  • Any missing parts
  • Working spreaders


  • A ladder should not be placed in doorways, passageways, or other locations where it can be disturbed.
  • Make sure the ladder is set on a stable, level surface.
  • A non-self-supporting ladder should be placed at an angle of approximately 75 degrees. The distance from the wall to the foot of ladder should be about one-fourth the ladder’s total length.
  • When using a non-self-supporting ladder to access a point to where you will dismount, the ladder should extend at least three feet beyond the support point. The ladder should also be lashed as close to the support point as possible.

Climbing and Descending

  • Face the ladder while climbing or descending and hold onto it with both hands.
  • Always maintain at least a three-point contact with either two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
  • Keep centered on the ladder.
  • Never lean beyond the side rails, or move, shift or extend the ladder while on it.
  • Never climb past the second step from the top on a stepladder.
  • Take one step at a time.
  • If tools are needed, use a tool belt or a bucket attached to a hand line.
  • Allow one person on a ladder at a time.

Remember that the ladder is a tool to assist in getting the job done, just like a wrench or screwdriver. Focusing on the task that necessitates using a ladder, while ignoring the tool, is a primary cause of ladder injuries. Climbing and descending a ladder must be a zero-mistake activity. You can’t afford an error in judgment.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
(385) 351-8103

Ask a Safety Consultant


NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.