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Ladders, Construction – Regulation 29 CFR 1926.1053

Ranking: 5

A Workplace Story

From a California FACE report:

It was raining and the steps of an 8-foot-straight ladder that was leaning against a 3-tiered storage shelf unit at a grocery market were slippery. The 72-year-old part-time grocery worker who was on the ladder on that January morning fell backward off it and landed on the concrete surface below. Co-workers helped him to his car, but when he subsequently lost consciousness, called 911. He was transported by ambulance to a local hospital where he died from his injuries 20 days later.

The employer, a small, independent grocery store, did not have a written injury and illness prevention program (IIPP) and did not safety meetings. Training was typically accomplished by on-the-job-training (OJT) – observing other workers perform their work tasks. There was no specific training on the safe use of ladders. The victim had no known underlying health conditions. He’d worked part-time at the market for several years, mostly driving a delivery truck and, when needed, stocking and removing supplies from the store shelves.

The CA/FACE investigator determined that, in order to prevent similar future incidents, grocery markets should:

Establish and enforce a safety training program that includes the hazards of climbing ladders. If ladders are used in wet conditions, safety precautions should be taken.

Have older employees who work on ladders assessed for increased fall risk by a healthcare provider.

The Numbers

Enforcement from October 2019 through September 2020

Total citations: 1,821

Total inspections: 1,026

Total proposed penalties: $11,962,667

Most Frequently Violated OSHA Standard Ranking – Number 6

Industries most often violating the ladders in construction standard:

Manufacturing (part 3 of 3):

Manufacturing (part 2 of 3):

Manufacturing (part 1 of 3):

Wholesale Trade: $834,267

Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services: $357,927

Other Services (except Public Administration): $244,676

Transportation and Warehousing (2 of 2): $211,054

Construction: $123,625

Retail Trade (part 1 of 2): $148,410

Accommodation and Food Services: $68,759


Falls are the leading cause of death in construction and every year falls from ladders make up nearly a third of those deaths. These deaths are preventable. Falls from ladders can be prevented and lives can be saved by following safe work practices.

When you want to reach a higher work area, a ladder or stepladder may not always be the best option. Ask these questions before deciding on a ladder:

  • Will the user have to hold heavy items while on the ladder?
  • Is the elevated area high enough that it would require a long ladder that can be unstable?
  • Will they be working from this height for a long time?
  • Will they have to stand on the ladder sideways in order to do this work?

If your answer is yes to one of the above questions, consider using something other than a ladder. If possible, bring in other equipment like a scissor lift. If a ladder must be used, use one that has a working platform with handrail barricades on the sides (e.g., a platform stepladder).


  • Use the right ladder for the job. For example, ensure the ladder is high enough for you to reach your work area without having to stand on the top rung.
  • When using ladders to access another level, secure and extend the ladder at least 3 feet above the landing point to provide a safe handhold.
  • The base of the ladder should be secured.
  • Wear proper footwear (e.g., non-slip flat shoes).
  • Place the ladder on stable and level ground. DO NOT place it on an uneven surface.
  • Ensure that the ladder is fully extended before starting work.
  • Prevent passersby from walking under or near ladders in use by using barriers (e.g., cones) or getting your coworker to act as a lookout.
  • Do not work on the top rung of the ladder.
  • Maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times.


Among the requirements of OSHA’s ladder standard:

  • The top or top step of a stepladder shall not be used as a step.
  • Ladders shall be used only for the purpose for which they were designed.
  • Portable/fixed ladders with structural defects shall either be immediately marked in a manner that readily identifies them as defective, or be tagged with “Do Not Use” or similar language. Defective portable/fixed ladders shall be withdrawn from service until repaired.
  • Ladders shall be maintained free of oil, greas and other slipping hazards.
  • Ladders shall be inspected by a competent person for visible defects on a periodic basis and after any situation that could affect their safe use.
  • Ladder repairs shall restore the ladder to a condition meeting its original design criteria before the ladder is returned to use.
  • Ladders must not be loaded beyond the maximum intended load for which they were built, nor beyond their manufacturer’s rated capacity.
  • The top or top step of a stepladder shall not be used as a step.
  • Do not tie or fasten together ladders to create longer sections unless the ladders are specifically designed for such use.
  • Ladders shall be used only on stable and level surfaces unless they are secured to prevent accidental displacement.
  • Ladders shall not be moved, shifted or extended while occupied.
  • Each employee shall use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when progressing up and/or down the ladder.
  • An employee shall not carry any object or load that could cause the employee to lose balance and fall.
  • When portable ladders are used for access to an upper landing surface, the ladder side rails shall extend at least 3 feet (.9 m) above the upper landing surface to which the ladder is used to gain access; or, when such an extension is not possible because of the ladder’s length, then the ladder shall be secured at its top to a rigid support that will not deflect, and a grasping device, such as a grab rail, shall be provided to assist employees in mounting and dismounting the ladder. WMHS

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