Portable Ladders for Construction


October 2003
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2004-101
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Self-Inspection Checklist

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This checklist covers regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the construction standards 29 CFR 1926.1050 to 1926.1060. It applies to portable ladders used at temporary worksites associated with construction, alteration, demolition, or repair work including painting and decorating. The regulations cited apply only to private employers and their employees, unless adopted by a State agency and applied to other groups such as public employees. Definitions of terms in bold type are provided at the end of the checklist. A yes answer to a question indicates that this portion of the inspection complies with the OSHA or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard, or with a nonregulatory recommendation.

      1. Are ladders or stairways provided at all points of access that are elevated 19 inches or more, and no ramp, runway, sloped embankment, or personnel hoist is provided? [29 CFR 1926.1051(a)]
      2. Does a competent person provide ladder training that teaches users how to recognize hazards and procedures for minimizing these hazards? [29 CFR 1926.1060(a)]
      3. Is ladder retraining provided when necessary? [29 CFR 1926.1060(b)]
      4. Can ladders support the load they are expected to carry? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(1)(i),(ii),and(iii)]
      5. Are ladder rungs, cleats, and steps parallel, level, and uniformly spaced when the ladder is in position for use? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(2)]
      6. Are rungs, cleats, and steps of portable ladders (other than step stools and extension trestle ladders) spaced at least 10 but not more than 14 inches apart (as measured between center lines of the rungs, cleats, and steps)? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(3)(i)]
      7. Are rungs, cleats, and steps of step stools at least 8 but not more than 12 inches apart (as measured between center lines of the rungs, cleats, and steps)? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(3)(ii)]
      8. Are rungs, cleats, and steps of the base section of extension trestle ladders at least 8 but not more than 18 inches apart (as measured between center lines of the rungs, cleats, and steps)? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(3)(iii)]
      9. Are rungs, cleats, and steps of the extension section of extension trestle ladders at least 6 but not more than 12 inches apart (as measured between center lines of the rungs, cleats, and steps)? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(3)(iii)]
      10. Is the clear distance between side rails for all portable ladders at least 11-1/2 inches? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(4)(ii)]
      11. Are the rungs and steps of portable metal ladders corrugated, knurled, dimpled, coated with skid-resistant material, or otherwise treated to minimize slipping? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(6)(ii)]
      12. Are ladders prohibited from being tied or fastened together to provide longer sections (unless they are designed for such use)? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(7)]
      13. Is a metal spreader or locking device provided on each stepladder to hold the front and back sections in an open position when the ladder is being used? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(8)]
      14. Are ladder surfaced to prevent injury from punctures or lacerations, and to prevent snagging of clothing? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(11)]
      15. Is it prohibited to coat wood ladders with any opaque covering, except for identification or warning labels that are placed on only one face of a side rail? [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(12)]
      16. Do portable ladders extend at least 3 feet above the upper landing surface for which the ladder is used to gain access? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(1)] Note: As an alternative, secure the ladder at its top to a rigid support that will not deflect. Use a grasping device (such as a grabrail) to mount and dismount the ladder. The extension should never be such that the ladder deflection under load would, by itself, cause the ladder to slip off its support.
      17. Are ladders maintained free of oil, grease, and other slipping hazards? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(2)]
      18. Are ladders loaded at or below the maximum intended load for which they were built, or at or below the manufacturer’s rated capacity? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(3)]
      19. Are ladders only used for the purpose for which they were designed? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(4)]
      20. Are non-self-supporting ladders used at an angle such that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is approximately 1/4 of the working length of the ladder (the distance along the ladder between the foot and the top support)? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(5)(i)]
      21. Are ladders used only on stable and level surfaces, unless secured to prevent displacement? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(6)]
      22. Are ladders used on slippery surfaces ONLY when they are secured or provided with slip-resistant feet to prevent displacement? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(7)] Note: Do not use slip-resistant feet as a substitute for care in placing, lashing, or holding a ladder on surfaces such as flat metal or concrete that cannot be prevented from becoming slippery.
      23. Are ladders secured to prevent displacement, especially in busy, high-traffic areas? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(8)] Note: As an alternative, a barricade may be used to keep the activities or traffic away from the ladder.
      24. Is the area around the top and bottom of ladders kept clear? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(9)]
      25. Is the top of a non-self-supporting ladder placed with the two rails supported equally, unless it has a single support attachment? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(10)]
      26. Is it prohibited to move, shift, or extend ladders while they are occupied? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(11)]
      27. Do ladders have nonconductive siderails if they are used where they could contact exposed energized electrical equipment? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(12)]
      28. Is standing on the top or top step of a stepladder prohibited? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(13)]
      29. Is climbing on the cross-bracing on the rear section of stepladders prohibited? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(14)]Note: This is allowed IF the ladder is designed and provided with steps for climbing on both front and rear sections.
      30. Are ladders inspected periodically by a competent person and after any incident that could affect their safe use? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(15)]
      31. Are portable ladders with structural defects (a) immediately marked in a manner that readily identifies them as defective, (b) tagged with DO NOT USE or similar language, or (c) withdrawn from service until repaired? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(16)]Note: Structural defects include broken or missing rails, corroded components, or other faulty or defective components.
      32. Does a ladder that is repaired meet its original design criteria, before it is returned to use? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(18)]
      33. Do all students and employees face the ladder when moving up or down the ladder? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(20)]
      34. Do all students and employees use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when moving up or down the ladder? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(21)]
      35. Is it prohibited to carry any object or load that could cause a person to lose balance and fall? [29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(22)]


      Cleat: a ladder crosspiece of rectangular cross section placed on edge. A person steps on a cleat while ascending or descending a ladder. [29 CFR 1926.1050(b)]

      Extension trestle ladder: a self-supporting portable ladder, adjustable in length, consisting of a trestle ladder base and a vertically adjustable extension section, with a suitable means for locking the ladders together.

      Portable ladder: a ladder that can be readily moved or carried.

      Step stool (ladder type): a self-supporting, foldable, portable ladder, nonadjustable in length, 32 inches or less in overall size, with flat steps and without a pail shelf, designed to be climbed on the ladder top cap as well as all steps. The side rails may continue above the top cap.

Page last reviewed: June 6, 2014