Portable Ladder Safety Inspection Checklist (Prevent Accidents)

November 15, 2021
portable ladder safety inspection checklist

Misuse of ladders is among the leading causes of occupational injuries.

Every job that involves the use of ladders has different risk factors.  Both employees and employers are responsible for taking steps to ensure ladders are always used safely.

Information Covered in this guide:

  • The hazards associated with misusing ladders.
  • Some frequent causes of ladder injuries.
  • How do you select the correct ladder for the task?
  • How to inspect, setup, and use ladders safely
  • How to store and maintain portable ladders

Hazards Associated With Using Ladders

Using ladders incorrectly is one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities. As you work on the job, you may be tasked to perform work that requires using ladders. 

At times, these tasks can expose you to falls and other potential hazards if ladders are misused.

Some of these hazards could include:

  • Electrical shocks.
  • Falls to lower levels.
  • Broken limbs.
  • Head injuries.
  • Struck against injuries


Ladder injuries frequently occur when workers:

  • Lack the proper training
  • Overreach while on the ladder
  • Climb or descend ladders incorrectly
  • Carry tools and materials while climbing ladders
  • Exceeding the ladder’s load capacity
  • Use the incorrect ladder for the task
  • Set up ladders on soft, slippery, or unstable surfaces

Using ladders may seem like a simple task, but basic safety rules are sometimes overlooked. These rules are in place to protect you and other individuals. 

It is always a best to review the complete list of OSHA guidelines that pertain to ladder safety.  Also, your specific state or municipality may have additional ladder safety requirements.

Ladder Safety Employee Training

  • When employees are required to use ladders for a task, they must be trained on the proper use and limitations of the ladder
  • Supervisors and managers must ensure their employees are retrained frequently to maintain an understanding of how to use ladders safely.
  • Always keep a record of the training on file .

Lack of ladder safety can have a financial impact or your organization

  • Improper use of ladders is frequently cited federal OSHA standards.
  • In 2019 OSHA issued over 2400 citations for ladders safety.
  • The BLS states that more than 15 % of workers compensation cases related to ladder accidents

When using ladders, the right steps must be taken to ensure the equipment is used safely.  Some of the factors to consider includes identifying any potential hazards by assessing the work area, check for housekeeping issues, and selecting the right personal protective equipment.

Planning and Preparation

  • Identify the type of work to be performed and review your organization’s fall protection plan for additional safety considerations.
  • Conduct an assessment and note any potential hazards
  • Identify the right type of ladder for the job. And…
  • Inspecting the ladder to be used. Additional inspections must be conducted if any damage is suspected.

Performing a Hazard Assessment is a critical step when using ladders. The hazard assessment reviews factors such as

What type of work will be performed?

The type of  hazards present in the work area? For instance, 

  • Are there overhead electrical  power lines or energized equipment
  • Is there uneven ground, slippery areas, or unstable ground surfaces
  • Are there doors that swing open towards the ladder? And…
  • Are there any environmental risks to consider, such as rain, high winds, or slippery conditions?

Housekeeping To Prevent Ladder Injuries’ In Workplace

Ensure the work areas is clear from debris and obstructions

  • Keep the top and bottom of ladders clear of debris.
  • Sweep or rake debris away from the base of the ladder.
  • Put away tools when not in use. And…
  • Ensure the rungs and side rails are free of dust, debris, mud, ice, and snow


  • Assess the type of Personal protective equipment  is needed
  • Choose footwear that has arch support and is slip-resistant
  • Determine the type of eye protection needed for the job.
  • Wear hardhats appropriate for any potential overhead hazards such as bulkheads
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use PPE correctly. And…
  • Follow your organizations fall protection plan when using ladders


Choosing the right ladder for a task is a critical step in ladder safety.  There are many types of commercial ladders available for use by workers.  Each has its specific purposes, recommendations, and safety guidelines.  The type of ladder used depends on the task and the work environment.

Before starting the job, think about these questions

  • The type of surface where the ladder will be used? Are surfaces uneven, slippery, or otherwise unstable?
  • What type of environment will you be working in?  Is there High traffic or electrical hazards?
  • Is the ladder the right size and length to reach the work area safely?
  • What is the duty rating?  And
  • Is the ladder free from damage or broken components?

Answering these questions will assist in choosing the right ladder for the task

When selecting a ladder, consider the material used in its construction.  Common ladder materials include:

Wood: provides insulation against heat and cold, but ages quickly when left in sunlight. Wooden ladders are also heavy.

Aluminum: These ladders are lightweight and resistant to corrosion; however, they conduct electricity and do not insulate against heat or cold. And

Fiberglass ladders are weather-resistant and durable. When clean and dry, they do not conduct electricity.


Portable ladders are the most common type used in the workplace.

  • Portable ladders can be easily moved or carried.
  • They are intended for temporary use. And
  • Some portable ladders do not rely on a structure for support

Categories of Portable Ladders include:

Self-supporting, non-self-supporting, and Multi-purpose ladders

Some examples of self-supporting ladders include:

  • Tripod ladder, 
  • Platform ladder,
  • Trestle ladder, and
  • Fiberglass stepladders

Other Ladder Types include

Multi-purpose ladders that can be used as extension ladders or step ladders.

Ladder Height

When you have selected the appropriate material, determine the length of the ladder that is required.  Always consider the height of the structure and ensure the ladder extends at least three feet above the support point.

Load Capacity

  • The load capacity is the maximum weight the ladder can safely accommodate.
  • The maximum load is your weight, all clothing including protective gear, and all tools carried while on the ladder.
  • This label is located to the side of the ladder
  • The maximum load must be less than the load rating. Exceeding the maximum intended load could cause the ladder to collapse

The total calculated weight should not exceed the  ladders load capacity shown on the manufacturers label. 

Additionally, OSHA states that ladders must not be loaded above the load capacity specified by the manufacturer.

Ladder Labels

Each commercial ladder comes with labels that identify the duty rating, total length, and caution statements. Always review this information and follow the manufacturer’s instructions

Ladder Inspections

A competent individual should perform all safety inspections. 

OSHA defines a competent person as one that can identify existing hazards in the workplace, which are unsanitary or hazardous to employees, and has the authority to take immediate corrective actions to eliminate those hazards 29 CFR 1926.32 (f).

Before each use, a competent individual must inspect all ladders for visible damages.

Inspections should also be completed as specified by the manufacturer.

Inspectors Should

  • Ensure all ladder components are functioning correctly
  • Verify that side rails, slip-resistant pads, rungs, steps, rivets, spreader bars, ropes, and pulleys are in operating condition.
  • Inspect for any cracks, bends, or splits on side rails, rungs, and steps.
  • Ensure both rung locks are working correctly.
  • Verify that the ladder is free of foreign materials like oil and grease. And
  • Metal ladders should be inspected for rough burrs and sharp edges.

Damaged Ladders

Any damaged ladders should be removed from service until it can be restored to its original condition. Applying a temporary fix is not allowed under OSHA standards.

Ladders that are defective and awaiting repairs should be tagged “ Do Not Use” and stored away from other ladders. And if the ladder cannot be repaired, it must be removed and destroyed to prevent any future use.

Before using a ladder, always perform a visual inspection to ensure all its components are functional and verify that the ladder is not damaged. Also, check the area for overhead hazards and energized equipment


When setting up a ladder, determine if more than one person is needed.  For long and heavy ladders, always get help. Do not attempt to move or set up large, heavy ladders on your own. Doing so can cause injuries or property damage.  

When setting up a ladder

  • Ensure Extension or Non-Self-Supporting ladders extend at least three feet above the highest support point
  • Ensure both rails of  non-self-supporting ladders are supported correctly, AND
  • Setup non-self-supporting ladders at a 4:1 ratio. This means, for every 4 feet vertical, the ladder is placed 1 foot from the supporting structure.
  • In addition to extending the ladder 3 feet above the support point, the ladder should also be secured to prevent displacement while in use.   If you fail to secure the ladder, it could slip and fall, resulting in employee injury or could even be fatal.
  • Lock any doors close by, especially doors that open towards the ladder 

After the ladder has been set up correctly, now let’s discuss how to use the ladder safely

  • Only use ladders when you have been trained and understand the manufacturer’s instructions
  • If you have a fear of heights, avoid using ladders.
  • Always inspect the ladder and all its components before each use
  • Ensure the ladder is free from grease, oil, and any slippery materials
  • Ensure shoes worn while using ladders are slip-resistant
  • Do not use ladders during strong wind, snow, or inclement weather
  • Always use a tool belt to carry small tools
  • Do not carry tools or items while climbing the ladder that may cause you to lose your balance
  • Use a hoisting line to lift and lower heavy items and tools.
  • Never use a stepladder as an extension ladder
  • Do not allow anyone to work under a ladder that is in use, and remember that
  • Only one person should be on a portable ladder at a time

When Climbing and Descending a ladder, there are several things you should keep in mind.

  • Always face the ladder, use 3 points of contact when climbing, and keep your body between the side rails to maintain your balance
  • Do Not attempt to shift the ladder while anyone is on it
  • Do not climb above the second rung from the top of a step ladder or the third rung of an extension ladder
  • Stop using the ladder if you become disoriented or tired

Moving and Carrying Ladders            

Moving ladders can cause accidents and injuries if not performed correctly.  When moving ladders, take it down and reposition in a new location. Avoid moving ladders when extended and remember to get help when moving heavy ladders.

When Carrying Ladders:

  • Always retract extension ladders and secure the rope before moving to a new location.
  • Look for tripping hazards, other individuals, doors, windows, and other obstructions.
  • Storing Ladders

After each use, ladders should be stored in a manner that will prevent damage such as deformations, warping, corrosion, sagging, or weakening of the rungs.

  • Store Ladders as specified by the manufacturer’s instructions
  • When ladders are stored in an upright position, they should be secured with a chain to prevent accidental displacement. And remember to store ladders in a dry area and out of direct sunlight

Here are some points to remember

  • Inspect ladders before each use.
  • Choose the correct type and size of ladder appropriate for the task
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using ladders
  • Always set up ladders to prevent accidental movement
  • Discard ladders that are damaged beyond repair, and
  • Do not carry tools and equipment when climbing up or down ladders.

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