Department of Labor
Ladder Safety Website
Ladder Introduction

Selecting a Ladder:

Select the ladder intended for the work you need to perform.

Select a ladder with the proper duty rating to handle your weight and the weight of any materials being used.

Type IA: Recommended for extra, heavy-duty industrial use. Rating of 300 pounds. One of the only ladders acceptable for construction jobs.

Type I: Manufactured for heavy-duty use. Rating of 250 pounds. One of the only ladders acceptable for construction jobs.

Type II: Approved for medium-duty use. Rating of 225 pounds.

Type III:  Rated for light-duty work. Rating of 200 pounds.


Ladders may be made of wood, aluminum or fiberglass.

There are many types of ladders and each type of ladder has a specific purpose. 

The most common types of ladders are: 


Most common ladder in use at home or on the job.


Does not exceed 20 feet in height. 

Be sure to use the correct step of the ladder for the job. 

Position the ladder on a firm, level surface. 

Position the ladder to “face” the work to be done. 

NEVER stand higher than the platform on a step ladder. 

NEVER use the top step of a step ladder. 

NEVER “over reach” on a step ladder so you are not reaching to either side of the ladder.


Overlap the ladder sections by 10% or more of the working length of the ladder.

Correct use of Extension Ladders requires the following two-section “Overlap” guidelines:

Ladder Length: 36 feet or less
Overlap Needed: 3 feet

Ladder Length: 36-48 feet
Overlap Needed: 4 feet

Ladder Length: 48-60 feet
Overlap Needed: 5 feet

Does not exceed 44 feet when extended.

NEVER use fully extended.


Select a Ladder that is:

Certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Long enough for the work to be performed.

Sturdy and durable enough for the work to be performed.


Ladder Parts:


Stiles or Slide Rails


Footpads or Safety Feet


Wood Ladders:

Sturdy Construction



DO NOT paint wooden ladders - this may cover up defects. Treat with varnish or preservatives.

Click here to go to portable wooden ladder inspection checklist


Aluminum Ladders:


Not affected by weather. 

Can be "shaky". 

NEVER use when working with electricity.

Click here to go to portable metal ladder inspection checklist


Fiberglass Ladders:

Lighter than wood; not as light as aluminum.

Quite durable.

Non-conductive when clean and dry.

Best choice if you must work around electricity.


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