Ladder Safety Policy

April 2022

Portable Metal and Wood Ladders


In accordance with the requirements of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.21, 1910.25, and 1910.26 and the Amherst College Environmental Health & Safety Policy, the following guidelines have been established to reduce the risk of incident or injury to our faculty, staff, and students when employees of Amherst College are working on or around portable metal or wood ladders. This particular policy does not include fixed or job-made ladders that are or may be installed on campus.

This program outlines the proper procedures to be taken when inspecting, maintaining, storing and using portable aluminum, fiberglass, metal, and wood ladders on the job. The following shall be included as part of the Ladder Safety Program:

Ladder Ratings / Types

Ladders are categorized by size and weight limits. These limits are posted or otherwise attached to the ladder to let the user know its limitations.
Only the following ladders shall be used by Amherst College personnel:

  • Type I (Industrial) rated for 225 – 375 lbs.
  • Type II (Commercial) rated for 200 – 225 lbs.

Ladder Selection

Ladders should be chosen carefully:

  • Portable ladders must be of proper construction, size, and type for the type of work.
  • Metal ladders cannot be used around electrical equipment (i.e. panels, transformers, power lines etc.).
  • Use fiberglass or wood ladders around electrically energized equipment and lines
  • Ladders must be of sufficient height to perform the necessary work. Standing on the top two steps of a stepladder or the top three steps of a straight ladder is prohibited.
  • Step ladders can not be used as straight ladders
  • Smooth rungs should not be used where there is ice, rain, snow, or other wet conditions
  • When attempting to gain access to a platform, roof, or other elevated area a straight ladder shall be used.
  • The straight ladder must extend at least 3 rungs above the surface to be accessed
  • If the ladder is to be used at a height of 8’ or more, it shall be tied off, held in place by a spotter, or otherwise prevented from movement

Ladder Inspection

Ladders must be thoroughly inspected…

  • upon receipt, each new ladder purchased for use by Amherst College must be sent to the Paint Shop or Custodial Stockroom to be fully inspected and lettered “AMHERST COLLEGE.” The ladders will then be assigned a number and if necessary, a protective coating or sealant will be applied.
  • if damaged
  • after subjected to overloading
  • after subjected to impact
  • after exposure to elevated temperatures
  • after repair
  • every 6 months for damage and deficiencies
  • before each use, it should be assured that the ladder is:
  • free of loose locks, rungs or steps
  • free of loose nails, screws or bolts
  • free of broken, cracked or split braces, rails, rungs or steps
  • free of burrs, jagged edges and slivers
  • free of corrosion, grease, non-compliant paint, oil or rust
  • free of any recognized damage that could cause injury
  • Any ladder found to be damaged beyond repair should be disposed of after complete dismantling or breakage. This will insure that the ladder cannot be used after disposal.
  • If the ladder can be repaired, it should be removed from service, tagged out-of-service, and brought to the Carpentry Shop for the necessary repairs.

General Notes

  • Personnel shall always face the ladder when ascending or descending.
  • Maintain three points of contact with the ladder when ascending or descending.
  • Tools should be carried on a tool belt
  • Personnel using a ladder should never overreach.
  • The belt buckle should not extend beyond the beam or uprights of the ladder.
  • Ladders shall never be placed in front of a doorway that opens toward the ladder unless:
  • the doors have been locked to prohibit use (Locking of exit doors is not permissible.)
  • the doors have been posted with barrier tape or a sign that warns of the person on ladder
  • a person has been posted on the other side of the door to prohibit entry when ladder is being used
  • Ladders 8 feet in height or larger shall be held in place with any or all of the following:
    • a rope tied to a secure part of the building or fixture
    • a person whose responsibility is to stabilize the ladder for the user, or
    • any other method to prevent accidental movement
  • Employees using ladders on the job must feel comfortable using the ladder.
    • if an employee is apprehensive about using the ladder for any reason they should contact their supervisor.
    • if an employee is using medication that may cause drowsiness, reasonable accommodation must be made to prevent injury
  • Ladders must be placed on level, solid surfaces.
  • Never place a ladder on concrete blocks or any other object that might move
  • Slippery conditions such as ice and snow may also pose a problem. Sand / secure the ladder in place.
  • Only one person at a time is permitted on a ladder unless specifically designed for mulitple users.
  • The ladder should not be overloaded beyond its rated capacity.
  • Do not leave ladders unattended where unauthorized personnel or children may use them.
  • Do not use ladders during strong winds except in emergencies and after tying or securing.

Step Ladders

  • Step ladders must be opened completely with spreaders locked in place.
  • Step ladders can not be used as straight ladders.
  • Step ladders must be tall enough to perform the necessary work.
  • Stepping on the top two steps of a step ladder greater than 3’ in height is prohibited.

Extension or Straight Ladders

  • Straight or extension ladders must extend at least 3 rungs above the platform, roof, or other area of dismounting.
  • Straight or extension ladders must be long enough to perform the necessary work.
  • Stepping on the top 3 rungs of a straight ladder is prohibited.
  • Straight or extension ladders must be placed so that the proper ladder angle is met - for every 4 feet in height the ladder must be raised, the base should be 1 foot away from the wall or object that the ladder is set against.
    Ladder Diagram




Facilities Custodial Staff

  • Custodial personnel who are required to change light bulbs as part of their routine duties can utilize a step ladder 12’ in height or less provided the ladder is tall enough to safely reach the intended work. (Please see “Use of Ladders.”)
  • If a 12’ ladder is not available in the building, then the custodian should contact his/her supervisor who can obtain a ladder or notify the electrical shop by work order that the light needs to be replaced.
  • The Physical Plant Electric Shop can make arrangements to have the bulb or light fixture replaced by one of the electricians using a ladder or “Genie” lift or, in some cases, an outside contractor may be needed.

Ladder Storage

  • Ladders should not be stored where excessive heat or dampness is present.
  • Straight ladders should be stored horizontally either on the floor or hung on the wall where they should be supported at 4 to 5-foot intervals.

Ladder Maintenance

  • Aluminum ladders should be cleaned with soap and water as needed.
  • Fiberglass ladders should be cleaned with soap and water as needed and sealed with a clear or pigmented lacquer or paste wax when necessary.
  • Metal ladders can be cleaned with a mild soap and water as needed.
  • Wood ladders should be cleaned with a mild soap and water, then dried. The wood ladders should be protected with a clear shellac, varnish, or wood preservative application at least annually.
  • Wood ladders that have been painted shall be removed from service.

It is the responsibility of each supervisor to oversee the implementation and enforcement of this guideline. The Director of Facilities Planning and Management, the Assistant Director for Operations, the Environmental Health and Safety Committee, and the Amherst College Police Department have implemented this program for reasons of personal safety.

Ladder Safety