JobBuilt Ladder Safety

Job-built ladders provide an excellent way to reach unusual locations. They also accommodate high- traffic ladder use. Although the basic construction of a job-built ladder is fundamental, specific guidelines must be followed to ensure its safety and strength.

Don’t Skimp on Material Quality. All the lumber used must be finished on four sides (s4s), and free of sharp edges or splinters. All nails must be driven full length and flush. Depending on your location, various selections of wood species and associated grades can be used. As a rule-of-thumb, the lumber must be equal to, or better than, #1 Hem-Fir. Don’t skimp on the ladder’s quality. Your work is hazardous enough. There’s no need to add a poorly built ladder to the list of hazards.


Limitations. A single-cleat (single rung) ladder is permissible if less than 25 workers will be using it. If more than 25 workers will use the device, a double-cleat ladder is necessary. Remember too, a job- built ladder of any design cannot be longer than 24 feet, excluding the side rail extension above the landing.


Side Rail Construction. The ladder’s side rails must extend 36″ to 42″above the landing. Side rails can be constructed with either 2×4 or 2×6-inch lumber. Any ladder that rises less than 12 feet to the working level may be built from 2×4 material. Beyond this length, restrictions depend upon the height and pitch of the ladder, in accordance with ANSI standard A14.4 – 1979. Side rails can be spliced once, but the splice should be in the upper portion of the rail, and the rail must be as strong as if it were unspliced. Spliced rail ladders cannot exceed a pitch of 1-in-8.


Cleat Construction. Cleats can be made from either 1×4 or 2×4-inch lumber. The cleat cannot be spliced and must extend the full outside measurement of the single or double-width ladder. If using 1×4-inch cleats, install them with three 10d common nails at each rail. For 2×4-inch cleats, use three 12d common nails. Cleats must be parallel and evenly spaced from the ladder’s base to the top point of bearing. Spacing must measure 12-inches (½”), between the top edges of each cleat. There should be no cleats on side rails that extend above the landing surface.


With a single-cleat ladder, the clear distance between side rails can be 16 to 20 inches. Double-cleat ladders may have a clearance of 18 to 22 inches between each rail, and a filler block must be installed between each cleat. Use 1×2-inch fillers with 1×4 cleats, and 2×2-inch fillers with 2×4 cleats. Filler blocks must fit snugly between cleats.


Inspection and Maintenance. As with any important tool, ladders must be inspected regularly and repaired as necessary to ensure the safety of workers. Look over the ladder daily and, at least weekly, inspect landings, lashing, connections, and the condition of the lumber carefully. Any faulty items should be corrected immediately and cleats should be kept as clean as possible. Housekeeping at the ladder’s access point should be in above average condition.


Safety First on Any Ladder. As with all ladders, a job-built ladder must be set on a level, solid surface. Don’t set it in a passageway, doorway or driveway where it could be bumped or damaged by adjacent activities, unless the ladder area is barricaded. Always secure the ladder at the top and whenever possible, secure or stake the bottom too.


The fall you prevent could be your own!






Ladder Tips

Do you know there’s a killer on this job that you probably meet face-to-face everyday? I’m talking about the common, ordinary ladder. Ladders are involved in many accidents, some of which are fatal. Your life literally can depend on knowing how to inspect, use, and care for this tool. Let’s spend a few minutes talking about ladders.



Before using any ladder, inspect it. Look for the following faults:

  1. Loose or missing rungs or cleats.
  2. Loose nails, bolts, or screws.
  3. Cracked, broken, split, dented, or badly worn rungs, cleats, or side rails.
  4. Wood splinters.
  5. Corrosion of metal ladders or metal parts.

If you find a ladder in poor condition, don’t use it. Report it. It should be tagged and properly repaired or immediately destroyed.



Choose the right type and size ladder. Except where stairways, ramps, or runways are provided, use a ladder to go from one level to another. Keep these tips in mind:

  1. Be sure straight ladders are long enough so that the side rails extend above the top support point by 36″ at least.
  2. Don’t set up ladders in areas such as doorways or walkways where they may be run into by others, unless they are protected by barriers. Keep the area around the top and base of the ladder clear. Don’t run hoses, extension cords, or ropes on a ladder and create an obstruction.
  3. Don’t try to increase the height of a ladder by standing it on boxes, barrels, or other materials. Don’t try to splice two ladders together either!
  4. Set the ladder on solid footing against a solid support. Don’t try to use a step ladder as a straight ladder. 
  5. Place the base of straight ladders out away from the wall or edge of the upper level put one foot for every four feet of vertical height. Don’t use ladders as a platform, way, or scaffold.
  6. Tie in, block, or otherwise secure the top of straight ladders to prevent them from being displaced.
  7. To avoid slipping on a ladder, check your shoes for oil, grease, or mud and wipe it off before climbing.
  8. Always face the ladder and hold on with both hands when climbing up or down. Don’t try to carry tools or materials with you.
  9. Don’t lean out to the side when you’re on a ladder. If something is out of reach, get down and move the ladder over.
  10. Most ladders are designed to hold only one person at a time. Two may cause the ladder to fail or throw it off balance.




Take good care of ladders and they’ll take care of you. Store them in a well ventilated areas, away from dampness.


These tips on ladders may save you from a ladder that tips.


Ladders & Stairways

Falls rank second only to motor vehicle accidents as the chief cause of death on the job. According to OSHA estimates, falls from ladders and stairs account for 24,000 injuries and 36 deaths per year. Why are workers injured?

People get hurt using ladders because…
  • They fell or slipped
  • They weren’t shown how to inspect ladders
  • They had wet, greasy, or oily shoes
  • The ladder was poorly maintained
  • They were holding object(s) with one or both hands
  • They used boxes or chairs instead of ladders
  • They were not provided written instructions on the safe use of ladders


People get hurt using stairs because…
    • They fell or slipped
    • They tripped over objects on steps
    • They were not holding the handrail
    • The stair treads were loose
    • They were holding object(s) with one or both hands
    • The handrails were missing
    • The stairway was poorly maintained