Providing Backdrop Rentals and Theatrical Equipment and Supplies

Safety is no accident

Ladder Safety

People often fall off ladders causing injuries that range from bruises and scrapes to broken bones. Occasionally, the result is death. 13% of workplace deaths and over 16% of the workplace injuries are falls, and ladders are involved in many of these accidents.

Ladders, portable and fixed, are covered in OSHA sections 1910.25, 1910.26 and 1910.27. ANSI standards E1.1, A14.1, A14.2, A14.4 and A14.5 cover most portable ladders in the work place. E1.1 is especially important because it covers the use of wire rope ladders in the entertainment industry.

Back to Top

There are a number of potential hazards when you work with a ladder:

      • Poor condition.
      • Missing parts.
      • Broken parts.
      • Loose parts.
      • Improper selection.
Back to Top

Not every ladder is right for every use. Consider:

      • Weight limits.
      • Height limits.
      • Metal ladders are not to be used near live electrical wires or fixtures.
      • Improper use.
Back to Top

Ladders are designed to get you higher they are not:

      • Platforms.
      • Scaffolds.
      • Braces.

and should only be used for their intended purpose.

Also, boxes and chairs are NOT ladders and are not to be used as a substitute for a ladder.

Back to Top


Before using a ladder you should inspect:

      • Steps and rungs - to see if they are intact and free from grease and oil and non skid surfaces are in good condition and firmly attached.
      • Metal parts for proper lubrication.
      • For splinters or other sharp edges.
      • Rope - to be sure its is not frayed or worn.
      • Safety feet to be sure they are in place.
      • Spreaders and other locking devices are in place and working.
      • Rungs or steps on metal ladders should be skid resistant.
      • Moveable parts should operate freely.
      • Dents or bends in metal ladders.
      • For exposure to fire or corrosive chemicals.
      • Metal bearings should be adequately oiled.
      • DO NOT attempt to straighten or use a bent ladder made of metal or reinforced plastic.
      • If anything is broken or damaged tag it as defective, remove it from service and notify your supervisor.

Do not try to repair a ladder yourself.

Back to Top


Ladders should be stored standing up in an area with moderate temperatures and good ventilation. If they must be stored laying down they should be supported at both ends so they will not sag or warp. Nothing should be put on a stored ladder, as this will warp it.

Back to Top


Ladders are rated by the weight they can hold.

      • I-A - 300 pounds (heavy duty)
      • I - 250 pounds (heavy duty)
      • II - 225 pounds (medium duty)
      • III - 200 pounds (light duty). Usually not suitable for use on the job.
Back to Top

There are also limits on ladder length.

      • Stepladders should be no more than 20 feet high.
      • One-section ladders should be no more than 30 feet.
      • An extension ladder can go to 60 feet, but the sections must overlap.
Back to Top


      • Place ladder on a level surface. Use wide boards under the feet if you are on soft ground.
      • Extend the ladder so the top is at least 3 feet above the top support point.
      • Set the feet so they are parallel to the surface the ladder rests against.
      • Anchor the top and tie the bottom or have someone hold it.
      • Do not rest the ladder on a window or window sash.
      • Do not place a ladder in front of a door unless it is blocked or locked.
      • Positions an extension ladder so that the distance of the base of the ladder from the wall is equal to 1/4 the ladders working length.
      • The upper section on extension ladders should overlap and rest on the bottom section. The upper section MUST always overlap on the climbing side of extension ladders that are 36 feet or more in length.
      • Position an extension ladder before you extend it.
      • Keep metal ladders away from live electrical lines and fixtures.
Back to Top

Procedures for Use

      • Only one person at a time on a ladder.
      • Keep your body centered on the ladder.
      • Work with one hand on the ladder - keep your tools in a holder or hanger.
      • Do not step on the top two steps of a stepladder or the top four rungs of an extension ladder.
      • Wear shoes with clean, nonskid soles - no leather soles.
      • Face the ladder holding the side rails with both hands while climbing up or down.
      • Carry tools in a belt, with a rope or hoist, not in your hands.
      • Do not move a ladder while you are on it.
      • Keep your movements slow and cautious while working or climbing a ladder.
      • It is best to have two people carry a ladder. If you have to carry a ladder by yourself, balance the center on your shoulder. Position the front end above your head and the back end near the ground.
Back to Top

Ladder Safety Check Lists

      • Select ladder that is right for the job.
      • Inspect ladders before use.
      • Be sure rungs or steps are in good condition, are free of grease and oil and have non-skid surfaces.
      • Keep metal parts lubricated.
      • Check that there are no sharp edges or splinters.
      • Check that support bolts, screws, braces, etc., are in good condition.
      • Store in dry, well-ventilated areas with moderate temperatures.
      • Store ladders vertically or horizontally with supports at each end and in the middle.
      • Set up ladders on a firm level surface.
      • Set ladder feet parallel to the surface it rests against.
      • Anchor the ladder top.
      • Have the ladder bottom tied or held.
      • Extend the ladder at least 3' above the top support point.
      • Angle the ladder so from the wall to the bottom of the ladder equals 1/4 the ladders working length.
      • Position an extension ladder before extending it.
      • Shoes should be clean with non-skid soles.
      • Face the ladder while climbing up or down.
      • Use both hands to climb.
      • Carry tools with a belt, rope, etc.
      • Keep one hand on the ladder while working.
      • Keep tools in a holder while working.
      • Keep between the side rails.
      • Move slowly and cautiously on a ladder.
Back to Top


      • Use a ladder for ANY other purpose.
      • Use chairs, boxes or anything else in place of a ladder.
      • Use a metal ladder near live electric wires or fixtures.
      • Use a ladder with broken or missing parts.
      • Use a ladder with a frayed or worn rope.
      • Use a ladder that has been exposed to fire or corrosive chemicals.
      • Climb from one ladder to another.
      • Store anything on a ladder.
      • Rest a ladder on a window or window sash.
      • Place a ladder in front of a door unless its blocked or locked.
      • Allow more than one person on a ladder.
      • Move a ladder while you're on it.
      • Climb ladders if you're afraid of heights or tend toward fainting or dizziness.

Ladders are a very useful tool and there is no reason for them to be the cause of an accident if you set them up correctly and use caution while working on them.

Back to Top