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Five Rules for Ladder Safety

March is Ladder Safety Month

March is Ladder Safety Month

Portable ladders are used throughout Duke by employees on a daily basis. To use a portable ladder safely, one must use the five rules for ladder safety:

  1. Select the Right Ladder for the Job
    • Use the ladder as it is designed to be used.
    • Choose the type that has a greater load rating than the combined weight of you AND any items you may carry on the ladder.
  2. Inspect the Ladder Before Use.
    • If a ladder is found with a defect, the ladder should be tagged DANGER-DO NOT USE and removed from service until repairs can be made, or the ladder can be destroyed.
  3. Set Up the Ladder with Care.
    • Ladder is placed on a level surface that is free from any substances that may cause slipping.
    • Ensure spreaders or other locking devices are in place.
  4. Climb and Descend Ladders Cautiously.
    • Must face ladder while climbing.
    • Maintain at least three points of contact.
  5. Use Safe Practices When Working on a Ladder.
    • Do not over reach while on a ladder. A good rule of thumb is to keep your belt buckle between the side rails.
    • Never attempt to reposition a ladder while you are standing on it.
    • Do NOT place a ladder in front of a door.

These five rules are also explained in Working Safely with Stepladders at Duke. In addition, extension ladders must extend at least three feet above the upper landing and be placed at a base distance ¼th of the working height of the ladder from the wall (4:1). Fixed ladders are also found throughout Duke Buildings and should only be accessed by authorized employees.

  • Make sure that fixed ladders are kept in good condition.
  • The side rails of fixed ladders must extend at least 42 inches above the top of the access level or landing platform served by the ladder.
  • A ladder leading to a platform should have a self-closing gate.
  • If more than 24 feet in height, then the fixed ladder must have a ladder safety device or a fall arrest system if built on or after November 19, 2018. If built before November 19, 2018, the deadline to have a ladder safety device or fall arrest system is November 19, 2036.
  • Cages are NOT considered fall protection on fixed ladders.

More information is available in Duke Ladder Safety Training (GS150), our Ladder Safety FAQs, and our General Safety resource list. Additionally, you may contact the Occupational Hygiene and Safety Division at 919-684-5996 or