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ARI Blog: Article

Extension Ladder Safety

What is an Extension Ladder? Also known as “portable ladders,” extension ladders usually have two sections that operate in brackets or guides, allowing for adjustable lengths. Because extension ladders are not self-supporting, they require a stable structure that can withstand the intended load.

PLAN to Get the Job Done Safely.

  • Use a ladder that can sustain at least four times the maximum intended load, except that each extra-heavy-duty type 1A metal or plastic ladder shall support at least 3.3 times the full intended load. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and labels on the ladder. To determine the correct ladder, consider your weight plus the weight of your shipment. Do not exceed the load rating and always include the weight of all tools, materials, and equipment.

  • A competent person must visually inspect all extension ladders before use for any defects such as missing rungs, bolts, cleats, screws, and loose components. Where a ladder has these or other defects, it must be immediately marked as defective or tagged with “Do Not Use” or similar language.

  • Allow sufficient room to step off the ladder safely. Keep the area around the bottom and the top of the ladder clear of equipment, materials, and tools. If access is obstructed, secure the top of the ladder to a rigid support that will not deflect, and add a grasping device to allow workers safe access.

  • Set the ladder at the proper angle. When a ladder is leaned against a wall, the ladder's bottom should be one-quarter of the ladder’s working length away from the wall. To access an elevated work surface, extend the top of the ladder three feet above that surface or secure the ladder at its top.

  • Before starting work, survey the area for potential hazards, such as energized overhead power lines. Ladders shall have nonconductive side rails where the worker or the ladder could contact exposed energized electrical equipment. Keep all ladders and other tools at least 10 feet away from any power lines.

  • Set the ladder's base so that the bottom sits securely and so both side rails are evenly supported. The ladder rails should be square to the structure against which it is leaning, with both footpads placed securely on a stable and level surface.

  • Secure the ladder’s dogs or pawls before climbing.

  • When using a ladder in a high-activity area, secure it to prevent movement and use a barrier to redirect workers and equipment. If the ladder is placed in front of a door, permanently block off the door.

TRAIN Workers to Use Extension Ladders Safely. Employers must train each worker to recognize and minimize ladder-related hazards.

Safe Ladder Use—


  • When climbing/descending a ladder, maintain a 3-point contact (two hands and a foot, two feet and a hand) when climbing/ descending a ladder.

  • Face the ladder when climbing up or descending.

  • Keep the body inside the side rails.

  • Use extra care when getting on or off the ladder at the top or bottom. Avoid tipping the ladder over sideways or causing the ladder base to slide out.

  • Carry tools in a tool belt or raise tools using a hand line. Never carry tools in your hands while climbing up/down a ladder. • Extend the top of the ladder three feet above the landing. (See Figure 2.)

  • Keep ladders free of any slippery materials.


  • Place a ladder on boxes, barrels, or unstable bases.

  • Use a ladder on soft ground or uneven footing.

  • Exceed the ladder’s maximum load rating.

  • Tie two ladders together to make them longer.

  • Ignore nearby overhead power lines.

  • Move or shift a ladder with a person or equipment on the ladder.

  • Lean out beyond the ladder’s side rails.

  • Use an extension ladder horizontally like a platform.

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