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ANSI/OSHA Ladder Requirements

Quick Tips #132

Ladders come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. They are useful in many industries for a variety of applications. This document will give you an overview of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for portable ladders, along with tips for proper ladder usage.

OSHA Regulatory Requirements

OSHA has separate regulations for portable wood ladders and portable metal ladders.

Portable Wood Ladders
29 CFR 1910.25 addresses wood ladders, and is divided into application, materials, construction requirements, and ladder care and usage. This regulation applies to common wood ladders and not to specialty ladders such as shelf ladders, extension ladders, fruit pickers ladders, stepladders and library ladders.

Wood ladders should be constructed of a high-density wood that is free of sharp edges and splinters. Visual inspection should reveal no decay, or irregularities including shake, wane and compression failures or other weaknesses. Construction requirements include ladder length restrictions (see Table #1) and step spacing. Uniform step spacing must not exceed 12".

Table #1

Ladder Type


Max Length


Special Requirements

Type I -
Industrial Stepladders




The minimum width between side rails at the top, inside to inside, is 11-1/2 inches. From top to bottom, the side rails must spread at least 1 inch for each foot of stepladder length. Each stepladder must have a metal spreader or locking device of sufficient size and strength to securely hold the front and back sections in open positions.

Type II -
Commercial Stepladder




Same as above.

Type III -
Household Stepladder




Same as above.

Rung Ladder





Two-Section Rung Ladder




Ladder rails must fit into each other. Upper section can be raised/lowered.

Trestle Ladder





Painter's Ladder





Mason's Ladder





Side-Rolling Ladder






Care and usage requirements ensure the serviceability and safety of portable wood ladders. Ladders should be maintained in good condition by keeping all joints tight; lubricating all wheels, locks and pulleys; replacing worn rope; and routine cleaning. Those that are defective must be destroyed or withdrawn from service. Usage requirements involve placing the ladders at an angle so they are 1 ft. away from the wall for every 4 ft. of working ladder height (see Figure #1); allowing only one person at a time on a ladder; not placing the ladder on top of other objects to increase height or in front of doorways; and extending the ladder three feet over a point of support if climbing to a rooftop, among others.

Figure #1:
Angle of Inclination

Make sure the ladder is about 1 ft. from the vertical support for every 4 ft. of ladder height between the foot and the top support.

Portable Metal Ladders
29 CFR 1910.26 addresses metal ladders, and is divided into general requirements, and care and maintenance. The general requirements call for ladders that are free of sharp edges and are structurally sound. Metal ladders must have rungs that are knurled, dimpled or treated to improve slip resistance. OSHA also places ladder length restrictions on portable metal ladders (see Table #2). Uniform step spacing must not exceed 12".

Proper care and maintenance of portable metal ladders extends ladder life and improves user safety. If a ladder tips over, it must be inspected for damage (bends or dents, loose rivets or joints, etc.) and if defective, must be marked and taken out of service for repair. Ladders must be kept clean so they do not become slippery. Portable metal ladders are designed for use by only one person, a 200-lb. load capacity, secure footing, and support for both top rails. Like wooden ladders, metal ladders must be placed at an angle so they are 1 ft. from the wall for every 4 ft. of working ladder height (see Figure #1).

Fiberglass Ladders

OSHA does not address fiberglass ladders. ANSI has guidelines for choosing fiberglass ladders. According to ANSI 14.5 2007, fiberglass ladders should be made of good, commercial-grade, thermosetting polyester resin reinforced with glass fibers. The following selections need to be considered and followed:

  1. electrical
  2. corrosion resistance
  3. outdoor weathering
  4. thermal conditions
  5. structural integrity

Ladders shall be inspected frequently and those that have developed defects shall be withdrawn from service and marked or tagged “Dangerous, Do Not Use”. Maintenance and inspection is cited in 29 CFR 1917.119(e).

ANSI Standards

ANSI consensus standards on portable ladders include ANSI A14.1-2007 for wood ladders, ANSI A14.2-2007 for metal ladders and ANSI A14.5-2007 for reinforced plastic ladders. These standards detail the various materials, construction requirements, test requirements, usage guidelines and labeling/marking requirements for portable ladders.

ANSI recommends various species of wood that are suitable for ladders. Physical characteristics such as grain, knot, pitch and compression must be controlled in constructing ladders. Reinforced plastic ladders must use fully cured, commercial-grade, thermosetting polyester resin with glass-fiber reinforcement. The environment the finished ladder will encounter (electrical hazards, temperature extremes, corrosion, outdoor weathering, etc.) should determine the material. Metal ladders do not have material guidelines.

Test requirements for the three ladder materials vary. However, ladders generally are evaluated on their resistance to bending, strength in various positions, and the quality of the individual components that make up the ladder.

Construction requirements include weight and size categories for portable ladders. The four ladder types and their duty ratings are shown in Table #3. Size categories vary for wood, metal and reinforced plastic materials, ladder types, and ladder designs (stepladder, extension ladder, platform ladder, etc.).

Usage guidelines for portable ladders encompass selecting the proper ladder for the job being performed; inspecting before use to verify proper operation and cleanliness; evaluating ladder placement so that footing and top supports are secure and not creating a traffic hazard for pedestrians; utilizing proper climbing technique; and caring for and storing ladders.

Ladders must be marked with ladder size, type, maximum length, number of sections (if appropriate), highest standing level, total length of sections (if applicable), model number, manufacturer's name, manufacturer's location, and date of manufacture. Usage guidelines and other warning statements must also be placed on the ladders in specific locations depending on ladder type.

Table #2


Ladder Type


Max Length


Special Requirements

Single Section Ladder




The minimum width between side rails of a straight ladder or any section of an extension ladder should be 12 inches.

Extension Ladders









The length of single ladders or individual sections of ladders should not exceed 30 feet. Two-section ladders must not exceed 48 ft. in length, and ladders of more than two sections must not exceed 60 ft. in length.

Greater than 2-SECTION




Overlap stops required.





Insulating, nonslip pads at bottom of rails. Must have locking device to hold ladder sections open.

Platform Ladder





Trestle Ladder/Extensions






Table #3


Ladder Type


Duty Rating



Type 1AA Ladder


375 lb.


Extra-heavy-duty industrial ladder

Type 1A Ladder


300 lb.


Heavy-duty industrial ladder

Type 1 Ladder


250 lb.


Heavy-duty industrial ladder

Type 2 Ladder


225 lb.


Medium-duty commercial ladder

Type 3 Ladder


200 lb.


Light-duty household ladder

Ladder Use

Proper Procedure
Before working with a ladder, read the manufacturer's instructions. Do not use ladder if sleepy or ill, if you are taking medication, or if there's bad weather. Do not use ladders in doorways or other high-traffic areas. If a ladder must be used near a door, make sure the door is locked. If the door has to be open or the ladder is in a raised position, ask a coworker to stay with the ladder to make sure an accident does not occur. Use fiberglass or wood ladders, rather than metal, near power lines or other sources of electricity to avoid electrical shock hazards.

Proper Setup
The feet of a ladder should be level and positioned solidly on the ground. If the ground is soft or uneven, use boards under the legs for support. Test the ladder to verify that it is secure. For stability, both sides of the ladder need to be against the wall or other support. The legs on a stepladder should be spread fully and locked into position. As stated in the regulatory requirements above, ladders should be placed at a 75-degree angle.

How to Climb
Make sure hands, shoes and ladder rungs are dry. Use a second person to hold the bottom of the ladder and prevent others from disturbing ladder. Keep a three-point grip on the ladder at all times (two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet). Avoid distractions that make you turn away from the front of the ladder. Climb slowly with weight centered between side rails. Do not lean back, and never stand on the top two rungs of a stepladder or top four rungs of an extension ladder.

Commonly Asked Questions
Q.   How should I handle objects while on a ladder?
A.   Handling tools and other materials while on a ladder can be dangerous unless safe practices are followed. Keeping tools in a tool belt will keep them handy and free up your hands for climbing. Any heavy or bulky items should be brought up only after you have reached the top. Signs or barricades can be used to warn others that work is proceeding above them, and that they should be aware of possible falling objects.
Q.   Are ladders that are permanently attached to structures covered by these requirements?
A.   No. Ladders that are permanently attached to structures (fixed) are covered under the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.27, Fixed Ladders. This regulation covers design, specific features, clearance and pitch requirements for fixed ladders.



29 CFR 1910.25, Portable Wood Ladders
29 CFR 1910.26, Portable Metal Ladders
29 CFR 1910.27, Fixed Ladders
29 CFR 1917.119, Portable Ladders
29 CFR 1926.1053, Ladders
ANSI A14.1-2007, Portable Wood Ladder Safety Requirements
ANSI A14.2-2007, Portable Metal Ladder Safety Requirements
ANSI A14.5-2007, Portable Reinforced Plastic Ladder Safety Requirements
California OSHA website
Stairways and Ladders, a Guide to OSHA Rules

(Rev. 5/2014)


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Please Note:
The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only. This publication is not a substitute for review of the applicable government regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.

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