Ladders are such common everyday tools that many workers take them for granted. The two principal causes of ladder-related injuries are using the wrong ladder for the job and misusing or abusing climbing equipment.

Load Capacity/Duty Ratings

Load capacity is the combined weight of the user and materials.

Load Capacity 375 pounds – Special Duty/Professional Use – Type IAA Duty Rating
Type IAA typical uses:

  • Heavy MRO

  • Industrial construction

    Load Capacity 300 pounds – Extra Heavy Duty/Professional Use – Type IA Duty Rating
    Type IA typical uses:

  • Industrial construction

  • Building

  • Roofing

    Load Capacity 250 pounds – Heavy Duty/Industrial Use – Type I Duty Rating
    Type I typical uses:

  • General contracting

  • Building

  • Maintenance

  • Drywalling

    Load Capacity 225 pounds – Medium Duty/Commercial Use – Type II Duty Rating
    Type II typical uses:

  • Light commercial

  • Light general repair

  • Painting

  • Cleaning

    Load Capacity 200 pounds – Light Duty/Household Use – Type III Duty Rating
    Type III typical uses:

  • Painting

  • Light cleaning

    OSHA Requirements

    To meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, climbing equipment must meet or exceed American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. All Type I, IA, and IAA fiberglass, aluminum, and wood ladders, ladder jacks, and extension planks meet or exceed requirements. OSHA regulations apply to ladders used in the workplace. Thus Type I, IA, or IAA rated ladders are recommended for such applications.

    Staying Compliant

    Many of the following safety recommendations will help you stay compliant with OSHA Regulation 29CFR 1926 Subpart X – Ladders.


  • Look over a ladder carefully before you buy it and each time before climbing it, to make sure it's not damaged or missing any components.

  • Make sure that working parts move properly and that all connections are secure.

  • Check spreaders, extension ladder locks and flippers, and shoes.

  • Just like any other tool, keep your ladders in good condition.

  • Clean spills or drips and keep the ladder free from oil, paint, or other slippery materials. Never use opaque paint on a wooden ladder - it will prevent detection of surface damage or other defects.

  • Lightly lubricate moving parts.

  • Inspect fiberglass ladder rails for weathering due to UV (ultraviolet) exposure.

  • Keep the ladder protected from heat, weather, and corrosive materials.

  • Secure it carefully on your truck. Wear damage from transit vibration may weaken ladders.

    Before You Climb:
  • If there is even a remote possibility that you'll be working near electricity or overhead power lines, use a fiberglass ladder. Never use metal, water logged, or dirty wood ladders near electricity.

  • Make sure that your stepladder is fully open and both spreaders are locked.

  • Be sure all ladder feet are on firm, level ground. Use a leveler on uneven surfaces when necessary.

  • Make sure that both rails at the top of an extension ladder are fully supported. Support areas should be at least 12 inches wide on both sides of the ladder. (Except when climbing items such as a utility pole. In those instances, stabilize with v-rungs or other appropriate devices.)

  • Always be sure that the locks are fully engaged and the fly is in front of the base before climbing an extension ladder.

  • Make sure your shoes are free of mud, soil, or anything slippery.

  • Check for overhead clearance, making sure there are no obstructions or live electrical wires nearby, before extending a ladder.

  • Position a ladder where it doesn't interfere with foot traffic, work vehicles, or where it can be bumped by a door. If it's necessary to use a ladder near or in front of a door, lock or barricade that door and put up a caution sign.

    Positioning Extension Ladders
    Place an extension ladder at a 75-1/2-degree angle. The setback (S) should be 1/4 the length (L) to the upper support point. (See the illustration at right.) For example, if your upper support point is 20 feet, your setback should be 5 feet - S = 1/4 x L.

    See Step 5 below for more information.

    Extension Ladder Set Up

    Step 1
    Block The Feet
    The ladder should be closed. Position the ladder with the base section on top of the fly section. Block or "foot" the ladder against the base of the building or another secure object.

    Step 2
    Walk It Up
    Carefully erect the ladder by "walking" it up to a vertical position. Be sure the bottom is securely blocked against a fixed object or "footed" against another person.

    Step 3
    Lift Into Position
    First check for sufficient overhead clearance and make sure there are no power lines. Move the ladder away from the building so that it can he set at the proper angle.

    Carefully and firmly grip the ladder before moving - keep it vertical.

    Step 4
    Raise Fly Section
    After checking again for overhead clearance and ensuring there are no live electrical wires, carefully raise the fly section using the rope and pulley system. After the bottom rung of the fly section clears the bottom rung of the base section, place one foot on the base rung to provide continuous firm footing.

    Step 5
    Place Against Building
    Carefully lean ladder against the building at the correct 75-1/2-degree angle. The base should be one foot out for each four feet of ladder length to the upper support point. Extend the ladder three feet above the roof edge for access. Be sure both end caps or contact points are resting firmly and securely against the building.

  • Keep your body centered and hold the ladder with one hand while working with the other hand whenever possible. Never let your belt buckle pass beyond either ladder rail.

  • Move materials with extreme caution, and be careful while pushing or pulling anything while on a ladder.

  • Get help with a ladder that is too heavy to handle alone. If possible, have another person hold the ladder when you are working on it.

  • Climb facing the ladder. Always move one step at a time, firmly setting one foot before moving the other.

  • Haul materials up on a line rather than carrying them up an extension ladder Use extra caution when carrying anything on a ladder.

    Reprinted with permission from On the Job, August 2005, Grainger's quarterly newsletter for professional contractors. Information is courtesy of Werner Ladder. For more information, visit

    Note: This information has been checked for suitability. However, a successful solution depends on individual accuracy, skill, and caution. For this reason, W.W. Grainger Inc. does not guarantee the result of procedure compliance or assume responsibility for personal injury or property damage to persons following these procedures.

    Publication date: 11/28/2005