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ANSI ASC / 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 offers an overview of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) standards for portable ladders, along with tips for proper ladder usage.

OSHA Regulatory Requirements
Portable Wood Ladders

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 29 Part 1910.25 addresses portable wood ladders. It is divided into application, materials, construction requirements and ladder care and usage. This regulation applies to common types of portable wood ladders and not to specialty ladders such as shelf ladders, combination step and extension ladders, fruit picker’s ladders, stockroom and aisle-way stepladders and library ladders. Portable stepladders must not be longer than 20 feet and are specified as Type I, Type II or Type III stepladders.

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 inches.

Table #1

Ladder Type


Maximum Length


Special Requirements

Type I -
Industrial Stepladder


3-20 ft.


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 one 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


3-12 ft.


Same as above.

Type III -
Household Stepladder


3-6 ft.


Same as above.

Rung Ladder


30 ft.



Two-Section Rung Ladder


60 ft.


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

Trestle Ladder


20 ft.



Painter's Ladder


12 ft.



Mason's Ladder


40 ft.



Side-Rolling Ladder


20 ft.



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 doing routine cleaning. Those that are defective must be withdrawn from service for repair or destruction and tagged or marked “Dangerous, Do Not Use”.

Usage requirements involve placing the ladders at an angle so they are one foot away from the wall for every four feet 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:
Figure #1
Portable Metal Ladders

29 CFR 1910.26 addresses portable metal ladders, and is divided into general requirements, 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 inches.

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-pound load capacity; secure footing and support for both top rails. Like wooden ladders, metal ladders must be placed at an angle so they are one foot from the wall for every four feet of working ladder height (see Figure #1).

Table #2

Ladder Type


Maximum Length


Special Requirements

Single-Section Ladder



30 ft.

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

Extension Ladders:


48 ft.


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

Extension Ladders:
Greater than Two-Section Ladder


60 ft.


Overlap stops required.



20 ft.


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

Platform Ladder


20 ft.



Trestle Ladder/Extensions


20 ft.



ANSI Standards

ANSI consensus standards on portable ladders include ANSI ASC A14.1-2007 for wood ladders, ANSI ASC A14.2-2007 for metal ladders, ANSI ASC A14.5-2007 for reinforced plastic ladders and ANSI ASC A14.7-2011 Safety Requirements for Mobile Ladder Stands and Mobile Ladder Stand Platforms. These standards detail the various materials, construction requirements, test requirements, usage guidelines and labeling/marking requirements.

Material Guidelines

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. Metal ladders do not have material guidelines. 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.

Construction Requirements

Construction requirements include weight and size categories for portable ladders. Size categories vary for wood, metal and reinforced plastic materials. The five ladder types and their duty ratings are shown in Table #3.

Table #3

Ladder Type


Duty Rating



Type IAA Ladder


375 lb.


Extra-heavy-duty industrial ladder

Type IA Ladder


300 lb.


Heavy-duty industrial ladder

Type I Ladder


250 lb.


Heavy-duty industrial ladder

Type II Ladder


225 lb.


Medium-duty commercial ladder

Type III Ladder


200 lb.


Light-duty household ladder

Test Requirements

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.

Usage Guidelines

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 properly.

Marking Requirements

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.

Mobile Ladder Stands and Mobile Ladder Stand Platforms

ANSI ASC A14.7-2011 covers mobile ladder stands and mobile ladder stand platforms. Mobile ladder stands are movable, fixed height, self-supporting ladders consisting of steps, which give access to the top step. These are designed and intended for one person only. Mobile ladder stand platforms are movable, fixed height, self-supporting units having at least one standing level with means of access or egress to the platform(s). The assembly may be designed and intended for one or more persons.


Specific design and construction requirements are not spelled out because of the wide variety of materials and design possibilities. Mobile ladder stands and platforms must be designed to withstand four times their rated load and all exposed edges should be constructed with smooth edges.

Design Features

Steps should be constructed of non-skid surface, uniformly spaced with a rise of no more than 10 inches and at least 16 inches wide. Platforms should be 18-inches wide. Ladder stands with a top step height of four feet to 10 feet must be provided with handrails. Ladder stand platforms with a platform over 10 feet must have guardrails and toeboards on exposed sides and ends of the platform. Guardrails must have a height of 42 inches ± three inches including a midrail. On special use applications, the use of removable gates or non-rigid members, such as chains, is allowed.

Product Performance

Units must be able to pass the prescribed stability and load tests. Compliance labeling must meet durability testing for environmental concerns such as humidity, water, temperature and adhesive strength.

Proper Care and Use
  • Ladder stands must never be moved while occupied.
  • Units must not be loaded beyond the rated capacity.
  • Units should be used on level surfaces only.
  • Materials should not be stored on the steps.
  • Overreaching while on the ladder stand can cause instability and result in a fall.
  • Consult manufacturer’s care and use instruction manual.
Ladder Use

Remember the acronym C.L.I.M.B. supplied courtesy of Louisville Ladder:

C: Choose the right ladder for the job
L: Look for damaged or missing parts
I: Insure a safe, stable setup
M: Move carefully, using three points of contact
B: Be a safety expert, not a statistic

Proper Procedure

Before working with a ladder, read the manufacturer's instructions. Do not use a 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 and it is marked with warning signs and/or cones. If the door has to be open and 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. Inspect your ladder for damage before using. If you find it is damaged during your inspection, remove the defective ladder from service and identify it with a “Do Not Use” tag.

Proper Setup

Choose the right ladder for the job. Check the label to make sure it has the proper duty rating and it is long enough for the work to be completed safely. 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. Portable ladders must be placed at an angle so they are one foot from the wall for every four feet of working ladder height.

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 it. 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.

Ladder Safety Meets the 21st Century

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed a ladder safety app for mobile devices that features a multimodal indicator and a graphic-oriented guide for ladder selection, inspection, positioning, accessorizing and safe use. The app is also available in Spanish and can be downloaded for both iOS and Android users.

Commonly Asked Questions
Q: How should I handle objects safely while on a ladder? A: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50% of all ladder related accidents were due to individuals carrying items as they climbed. Keeping tools in a tool belt will keep them handy and free up your hands for climbing. The use of accessories such as tool lanyards to keep tools tethered to the worker can prevent them from falling while working on a ladder. 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.


29 CFR 1910.25, Portable Wood Ladders

29 CFR 1910.26, Portable Metal Ladders

29 CFR 1910.27 Fixed Ladders

29 CFR 1910.29 Manually Propelled Mobile Ladder Stands and Scaffolds (Towers)

29 CFR 1926.1053, Ladders

ANSI ASC A14.1-2007, Portable Wood Ladder Safety Requirements

ANSI ASC A14.2-2007, Portable Metal Ladder Safety Requirements

ANSI ASC A14.5-2007, Portable Reinforced Plastic Ladder Safety Requirements

ANSI ASC A14.7- 2011, Safety Requirements for Mobile Ladder Stands and Mobile Ladder Stand Platforms

Stairways and Ladders, a Guide to OSHA Rules

(Rev. 11/2015)


Find even more information you can use to help make informed decisions about the regulatory issues you face in your workplace every day. View all Quick Tips Technical Resources at

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Please Note:
The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This publication is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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