Online Ladder Safety Training: OSHA Citation Data, Online Courses, Free Online Word Game & FAQs

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Every year, OSHA puts out a list of the ten most commonly cited standard violations. Here’s OSHA’s Top Ten Citations List for 2016. Ladders, 1926.1053, is #7 on the list for 2016, and so we’ve got some online ladder training resources for you in this article–plus more.

Many of the same standards appear on the list again and again (that’s true of the Ladder standard, by the way–it’s on the list every year). And as a result, we’ve pulled together a series of blogs to help you train your workers about each of the ten most cited standards. Below, we’ve got a bunch of materials to help with ladder training.

Let us know if you’ve got some other resources you’d suggest. The comments field awaits.

Before you dig into the information about ladder training below, feel free to check out our short sample video that demonstrates a few highlights of our safety and health courses.



The Need for Online Ladder Safety Training

As the OSHA citation data below shows, we’ve got a lot of work to do when it comes to ladder safety. Training’s not the whole solution, but it can clearly contribute. We recommend using online ladder safety training courses along with other forms of ladder training in a blended learning solution for the most effective ladder safety training.

To help you comply better, here’s the regulation itself (1926.1053) and below are some additional statistics about ladder violations and citations.

Total Ladder violations– 2,625, down a little more than 100 from the 2015 total of 2,732.

Ranking in previous year– #7 (same as this year)

Top five sections cited

1. 1926.1053(b)(1) Requires ladder side rails to extend at least three feet above an upper landing surface, 1,458

2. 1926.1053(b)(4) Use of ladders restricted to only the purpose for which they were designed, 354

3. 1926.1053(b)(13) The top or top step of a ladder shall be not be used as a step, 235

4. 1926.1053(b)(16) Tagging and removing ladders from service portable ladders with structural defects, 127

5. 1926.1053(b)(5)(i) Non-self-supporting ladders shall be used at an angle such that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is approximately one-quarter of the working length of the ladder, 65

5. 1926.1053(b)(22) An employee shall not carry an object or load that could cause the employee to lose balance and fall, 75

Online Ladder Safety Training Courses

We’ve set you up with some samples of ladder safety training materials and even some free ladder safety training materials below. Check ’em out.

Check out a sample of our online Ladder Safety training course, which is part of our health and safety training library.

Online Ladder Safety Training Word Game

Here’s a ladder safety word game for you. Word games like this are great for new employee safety onboarding, refresher training, safety meetings, or just testing your own knowledge.

Enjoy playing!

Ladder Safety FAQs

Here’s more on ladder safety…

Has Convergence taken that NIOSH/OSHA ladder safety checklist and turned it into a free downloadable checklist for people to download?

You bet. Here’s our Ladder Safety Checklist based on the NIOSH checklist.

Why Are Ladder Safety and Ladder Safety Training Materials So Important?

According to an OSHA publication, “Stairways and ladders are major sources of injuries and fatalities among construction workers for example, and many of the injuries are serious enough to require time off the job.” Sounds like reason enough, no?

When Does OSHA Require that Ladders and/or Stairways Be Available, and When Must They Be Kept Clear?

OSHA rules specify when employers must provide stairways and ladders. According to the same OSHA publication, the rules are:

  • Employers must provide a stairway or ladder at all worker points of access when there is a break in elevation of 19 inches (48 cm) or more and no ramp, runway, embankment or personnel hoist is available.
  • When there is only one point of access between levels, employers must keep it clear of obstacles to permit free passage by workers.
  • If there is only one point of access between levels and free passage becomes restricted, employers must provide a second point of access and ensure that workers use it.
  • When there are more than two points of access between levels, employers must ensure that at least one point of access remains clear.
  • Employers must install all stairway and ladder fall protection systems required by these OSHA’s ladder/stairway rules and ensure that their worksite meets all requirements of the stairway and ladder rules before employees use stairways or ladders.

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General OSHA Safety Rules That Apply to All Ladders

Here are OSHA rules that apply to ladders of all types (source):

  • Use ladders only for their designed purpose.
  • Always keep ladders free of oil, grease, and all other slipping hazards
  • Use ladders only on stable and level surfaces unless secured to prevent accidental movement
  • Always secure ladders that are placed in areas such as passageways, doorways or driveways, or where they can be displaced by workplace activities or traffic to prevent accidental movement. Or use a barricade to keep traffic or activity away from the ladder.
  • Never use ladders on slippery surfaces unless secured or provided with slip-resistant feet to prevent accidental movement
  • Don’t use slip-resistant feet as a substitute for exercising care when placing, lashing, or holding a ladder upon slippery surfaces
  • Face the ladder when moving up or down.
  • Use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when climbing.
  • Do not move, shift or extend ladders while in use
  • Do not carry objects or loads that could cause loss of balance and falling
  • Never load ladders beyond their maximum intended load
  • Never load ladders beyond their manufacturer’s rated capacity
  • Keep areas clear around the top and bottom of ladders
  • A competent person must inspect ladders for visible defects periodically and after any incident that could affect their safe use.

These rules ALSO apply to all ladders…

…and typically involve cleats, rungs, steps, splicing, tying-together and/or fastening, and surfacing and/or coating (source). Before we begin, let’s get some relevant definitions from 1926.1050(b):

Single-cleat ladder–a ladder consisting of a pair of side rails, connected together by cleats, rungs, or steps.

Double-cleat ladder–a ladder similar in construction to a single-cleat ladder, but with a center rail to allow simultaneous two-way traffic for employees ascending or descending.

OK, definitions down, here are the rules:

  • Employers must provide double-cleated ladders or two or more ladders when ladders are the only way to enter or exit a work area where 25 or more employees work or when a ladder serves simultaneous two-way traffic.
  • Ladder rungs, cleats and steps must be parallel, level and uniformly spaced when the ladder is in position for use.
  • Rungs, cleats and steps of portable and fixed ladders (except as provided below) must not be spaced less than 10 inches (25 cm) apart, nor more than 14 inches (36 cm) apart, along the ladder’s side rails.
  • Rungs, cleats and steps of step stools must not be less than 8 inches (20 cm) apart, nor more than 12 inches (31 cm) apart, between center lines of the rungs, cleats and steps.
  • Rungs, cleats and steps at the base section of extension trestle ladders must not be less than 8 inches (20 cm) nor more than 18 inches (46 cm) apart, between center lines of the rungs, cleats and steps. The rung spacing on the extension section must not be less than 6 inches (15 cm) nor more than 12 inches (31 cm).
  • Never tie or fasten ladders together to create longer sections unless they are specifically designed for such use.
  • When splicing side rails, the resulting side rail must be equivalent in strength to a one-piece side rail made of the same material.
  • When two or more separate ladders used to reach an elevated work area, they must be offset with a platform or landing between the ladders, except when portable ladders are used to gain access to fixed ladders.
  • Ladder components must be surfaced to prevent snagging of clothing and injury from punctures or lacerations.

OSHA Rules That Apply to Defective Ladders

Before we begin, let’s get some definitions from 1926.1050(b):

Failureload refusal, breakage or separation of component parts. Load refusal is the point where the structural members lose their ability to carry the loads.

OK, now for the rules for defective ladders and/or ladders needing repair (source):

  • Immediately mark as defective or  tag with “Do Not Use” or similar language and withdraw from service until repaired any portable ladders with structural defects. This includes defects such as broken or missing rungs, cleats or steps, broken or split rails, corroded components, or other faulty or defective components.
  • Withdraw fixed ladders with structural defects from service until repaired. This includes defects such as broken or missing rungs, cleats or steps, broken or split rails, or corroded components.
  • Defective fixed ladders are considered withdrawn from use when they are immediately tagged with “Do Not Use” or similar language, or marked in a manner that identifies them as defective, or blocked—such as with a plywood attachment that spans several rungs.
  • Ladder repairs must restore the ladder to a condition meeting its original design criteria before the ladder is returned to use.

OSHA Rules That Apply to Single-Rail Ladders

Before we begin, a key definitions from 1926.1050(b):

Single-rail laddera portable ladder with rungs, cleats, or steps mounted on a single rail instead of the normal two rails used on most other ladders. 

Now, back to the rules (source): Don’t use single-rail ladders. Simple enough, huh?

OSHA Rules That Apply to Non-Self-Supporting Ladders

Here’s some guidance for using non-self-supporting ladders (source):

  • Use non-self-supporting ladders at an angle where the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is approximately one-quarter of the working length of the ladder.
  • Place the top of a non-self-supporting ladder so the two rails are supported equally unless it is equipped with a single support attachment.

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OSHA Rules That Apply to Wooden Ladders

Before we begin, let’s check another definition from 1926.1050(b):

Job-made laddera ladder that is fabricated by employees, typically at the construction site, and is not commercially manufactured. This definition does not apply to any individual-rung/step ladders.

Now, here are a few guidelines for ladders made of wood, including those built at the jobsite (source):

  • Use wooden ladders built at the jobsite with spliced side rails at an angle where the horizontal distance is one-eighth of the working length of the ladder.
  • Never coat wooden ladders with any opaque covering except for identification or warning labels, which may be placed only on one face of a side rail.

OSHA Rules That Apply to Step Ladders

Here are some rules for the use of step ladders (source):

  • Make sure metal spreader or locking devices are provided on stepladders to hold the front and back sections in an open position when ladders are being used.
  • Don’t use cross bracing on the rear section of stepladders for climbing unless the ladders are designed and provided with steps for climbing on both front and rear sections.
  • Never use the top or top step of a stepladder as a step.

OSHA Rules That Apply to Portable Ladders

Before we begin, let’s get another relevant definition from 1926.1050(b):

Portable laddera ladder that can be readily moved or carried. 

With that down, here are some safety guidelines from OSHA for portable ladders (source):

  • The minimum clear distance between side rails for all portable ladders must be 11.5 inches (29 cm)
  • The rungs and steps of portable metal ladders must be corrugated, knurled, dimpled, coated with skid-resistant material, or treated to minimize slipping
  • When portable ladders are used to access an upper landing surface, the side rails must extend at least 3 feet (.9 m) above the upper landing surface. When this is not possible, the ladder must be secured and a grasping device such as a grab rail must be provided to help workers mount and dismount the ladder. A ladder extension must not deflect under a load that would cause the ladder to slip off its supports.
  • Non-self-supporting and self-supporting portable ladders must support at least four times the maximum intended load; extra heavy-duty type 1A metal or plastic ladders must sustain 3.3 times the maximum intended load. To determine whether a self-supporting ladder can sustain a certain load, apply the load to the ladder in a downward vertical direction with the ladder placed at a horizontal angle of 75.5 degrees.

OSHA Rules That Apply to Fixed Ladders

Let’s start with another definition from 1926.1050(b):

Fixed-laddera ladder that cannot be readily moved or carried because it is an integral part of a building or structure.

Side-step fixed ladder–a fixed ladder that requires a person getting off at the top to step to the side of the ladder side rails to reach the landing.

Through fixed laddera fixed ladder that requires a person getting off at the top to step between the side rails of the ladder to reach the landing.

Now, here are some rules for the use of fixed ladders (source):

  • Fixed ladders must be used at a pitch no greater than 90 degrees from the horizontal, measured from the back side of the ladder.
  • If the total length of the climb on a fixed ladder equals or exceeds 24 feet (7.3 m), the ladder must be equipped with ladder safety devices; or self-retracting lifelines and rest platforms at intervals not to exceed 150 feet (45.7 m); or a cage or well and multiple ladder sections with each ladder section not to exceed 50 feet (15.2 m) in length. These ladder sections must be offset from adjacent sections and landing platforms must be provided at maximum intervals of 50 feet (15.2 m).
  • Fixed ladders must be able to support at least two loads of 250 pounds (114 kg) each, concentrated between any two consecutive attachments. Fixed ladders also must support added anticipated loads caused by ice buildup,winds, rigging and impact loads resulting from using ladder safety devices.
  • Each step or rung of a fixed ladder must be able to support a load of at least 250 pounds (114 kg) applied in the middle of the step or rung.
  • Individual rung/step ladders must extend at least 42 inches (1.1 m) above an access level or landing platform either by the continuation of the rung spacings as horizontal grab bars or by providing vertical grab bars that must have the same lateral spacing as the vertical legs of the ladder rails.
  • Minimum clear distance between the sides of individual rung/step ladders and between the side rails of other fixed ladders must be 16 inches (41 cm).
  • Rungs of individual rung/step ladders must be shaped to prevent slipping off the end of the rungs.
  • Rungs and steps of fixed metal ladders manufactured after March 15, 1991, must be corrugated, knurled, dimpled, coated with skid-resistant material or treated to minimize slipping. Minimum perpendicular clearance between fixed ladder rungs, cleats, and steps and any obstruction behind the ladder must be 7 inches (18 cm), except that the clearance for an elevator pit ladder must be 4.5 inches (11 cm).
  • Minimum perpendicular clearance between the centerline of fixed ladder rungs, cleats and steps, and any obstruction on the climbing side of the ladder must be 30 inches (76 cm). If obstructions are unavoidable, clearance may be reduced to 24 inches (61 cm), provided a deflection device is installed to guide workers around the obstruction.
  • Step-across distance between the center of the steps or rungs of fixed ladders and the nearest edge of a landing area must be no less than 7 inches (18 cm) and no more than 12 inches (30 cm). A landing platform must be provided if the step-across distance exceeds 12 inches (30 cm).
  • Fixed ladders without cages or wells must have at least a 15-inch (38 cm) clearance width to the nearest permanent object on each side of the centerline of the ladder.
  • Fixed ladders must be provided with cages, wells, ladder safety devices, or self-retracting lifelines where the length of climb is less than 24 feet (7.3 m) but the top of the ladder is at a distance greater than 24 feet (7.3 m) above lower levels.
  • Side rails of through or side-step fixed ladders must extend 42 inches (1.1 m) above the top level or landing platform served by the ladder. Parapet ladders must have an access level at the roof if the parapet is cut to permit passage through it. If the parapet is continuous, the access level is the top of the parapet.
  • Steps or rungs for through-fixed-ladder extensions must be omitted from the extension; and the extension of side rails must be flared to provide between 24 inches (61 cm) and 30 inches (76 cm) clearance between side rails.
  • When safety devices are provided, the maximum clearance distance between side rail extensions must not exceed 36 inches (91 cm).

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OSHA Rules That Apply to Cages for Fixed Ladders

Before we begin, let’s get some definitions from 1926.1050(b):

Fixed-laddera ladder that cannot be readily moved or carried because it is an integral part of a building or structure.

Side-step fixed ladder–a fixed ladder that requires a person getting off at the top to step to the side of the ladder side rails to reach the landing.

Through fixed laddera fixed ladder that requires a person getting off at the top to step between the side rails of the ladder to reach the landing.

Here are the rules for cages on fixed ladders (source):

  • Horizontal bands must be fastened to the side rails of rail ladders or directly to the structure, building or equipment for individual-rung ladders.
  • Horizontal bands must be spaced at intervals not more than 4 feet (1.2 m) apart measured from centerline to centerline.
  • Vertical bars must be on the inside of the horizontal bands and must be fastened to them.
  • Vertical bars must be spaced at intervals not more than 9.5 inches (24 cm), measured centerline to centerline.
  • Cages must not extend less than 27 inches (68 cm), or more than 30 inches (76 cm) from the centerline of the step or rung and must not be less than 27 inches (68 cm) wide.
  • Bottoms of cages must be between 7 feet (2.1 m) and 8 feet (2.4 m) above the point of access to the bottom of the ladder. The bottom of the cage must be flared not less than 4 inches (10 cm) between the bottom horizontal band and the next higher band.
  • Tops of cages must be a minimum of 42 inches (1.1 m) above the top of the platform or the point of access at the top of the ladder. There must be a way to access the platform or other point of access.
  • Insides of cages must be clear of projections.

OSHA Rules That Apply to Wells for Fixed Ladders

Before we begin, let’s get some definitions from 1926.1050(b):

Fixed-laddera ladder that cannot be readily moved or carried because it is an integral part of a building or structure.

Side-step fixed ladder–a fixed ladder that requires a person getting off at the top to step to the side of the ladder side rails to reach the landing.

Through fixed laddera fixed ladder that requires a person getting off at the top to step between the side rails of the ladder to reach the landing.

The requirements for wells for fixed ladders are  follows (source):

  • Wells must completely encircle the ladder.
  • Inside widths of wells must be at least 30 inches (76 cm).
  • Inside faces of wells on the climbing side of the ladder must extend between 27 inches (68 cm) and 30 inches (76 cm) from the centerline of the step or rung.
  • Wells must be free of projections.
  • Bottoms of wells above the point of access to the bottom of the ladder must be between 7 feet (2.1 m) and 8 feet (2.4 m).

OSHA Rules That Apply to Ladder Safety Devices and Related Support Systems for Fixed Ladders

The rules for ladder safety devices and related support systems for fixed ladders are (source):

  • The connection between the carrier or lifeline and the point of attachment to the body belt or harness must not exceed 9 inches (23 cm) in length.
  • All safety devices must be able to withstand, without failure, a drop test consisting of a 500-pound weight (226 kg) dropping 18 inches (41 cm).
  • All safety devices must permit the worker to ascend or descend without continually having to hold, push or pull any part of the device, leaving both hands free for climbing.
  • All safety devices must be activated within 2 feet (.61 m) after a fall occurs and limit the descending velocity of an employee to 7 feet/second (2.1 m/sec) or less.

OSHA Rules That Apply to Mounting Ladder Safety Devices for Fixed Ladders

The rules for mounting ladder safety devices for fixed ladders are (source):

  • Design and installation of mountings and cable guides must not reduce the strength of the ladder.
  • Mountings for rigid carriers must be attached at each end of the carrier, with intermediate mountings spaced along the entire length of the carrier, to provide the necessary strength to stop workers’ falls.
  • Mountings for flexible carriers must be attached at each end of the carrier.
  • Cable guides for flexible carriers must be installed with a spacing between 25 feet (7.6 m) and 40 feet (12.2 m) along the entire length of the carrier, to prevent wind damage to the system.
  • Side rails and steps or rungs for side-step fixed ladders must be continuous in extension.

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ADDITIONAL LADDER SAFETY (1926.1053) FAQs

Does OSHA have a Safety & Health Topic webpage for ladder-related hazards and regulations?

They don’t. That’s strange, given how common these violations are. But they DO have a Safety & Health Topic page for Walking/Working Surfaces, and that includes information about ladders.

Does OSHA have any eTools for the ladder regulations?

There are two:

Does OSHA provide any other helpful resources?

Here’s an OSHA publication that serves as a guide to OSHA rules on stairways and ladders.

What about NIOSH? Do they offer resources too?

NIOSH has collaborated with the American Ladder Institute to provide this website full of helpful tips on ladder safety.

In addition, here’s a NIOSH Alert regarding electrocutions when working on metal ladders near overhead power lines, and here’s a NIOSH checklist for ladder safety (this is based on OSHA regs).

Does NIOSH also have a brand new ladder safety app for cell phones?

Yep, here’s the new NIOSH ladder safety app.

Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide Checklist

Online Safety Training Buyer’s Guide Checklist

Learn how to evaluate the different online safety training solutions that exist to find one that best fits your company’s needs with our FREE informative guide and checklist.

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Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide Checklist
Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. You can follow Jeff at LinkedIn as well.

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