Safety requirements for fixed ladders

Updated February 21, 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Act designates ladders as hazardous and sources of injury for workers. OSHA's rules regarding ladders, including fixed ladders, are covered under its construction safety and health standard 29 CFR 1926 1050-1060. A fixed ladder is one that is not free-standing and is permanently attached vertically to a building or other structure. OSHA has general ladder safety requirements that apply to all ladders and specific safety requirements that apply to different kinds of ladders.

General Ladder Rules

OSHA requires that ladders be maintained safely, without slip hazards or excessive loads. They must only be used on level, slip-resistant surfaces, should not be moved while in use and should be secured if used in high-traffic areas where they could be bumped into or knocked over. Two or more ladders or double-cleated ladders must be used in areas where the ladder is the only way to get in or out and there are more than 25 employees.

Safety Devices

OSHA requires accompanying safety resources for a fixed ladder that is longer than 24 feet. Self-retracting lifelines and rest platforms are required every 150 feet. A cage or well with the ladder must be separated into 50 foot sections. The interior of cages and wells must be kept clear and wells must completely surround ladders.

Load Requirements

OSHA requires fixed ladders to be able to bear up to 227kg. as well as any additional anticipated weight from other safety devices, ice build-up and wind. Each rang of fixed ladders is required to be able to support at least 113kg.


OSHA has specific requirements regarding the rungs or steps on fixed ladders. Fixed ladder rungs must be skid-resistant to reduce and avoid slips. The rungs must be shaped to prevent slipping. The distance from the rungs to any obstructions near fixed ladders must be at least 30 inches. The step-across distance from the rungs to the landing area must be between 7 and 12 inches.

Defective Ladders

OSHA requires defective fixed ladders to be taken out of use until repaired. They must be tagged with a sign that states "Out of service" or similar wording or be blocked so that they cannot be used.


OSHA requires employers to train employees to recognise ladder hazards and how to reduce and avoid safety issues. The training must include the origins of fall hazards, how to put together and take apart fall protection systems, proper use of ladders and maximum load capacities of ladders in use.

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Heidi Cardenas specializes in human resources, business and personal finance, small-business advice, home and garden and home improvement. Her professional background includes human resources and business administration, technical writing and corporate communications. She has studied horticulture and business administration, and enjoys guest blogging for publications including Herb Companion Magazine, Natural Home Living Magazine, and Mother Earth Living.