Ladder Types:
Safety Training

Ladder Safety Training

The American Ladder Institute is pleased to announce the release of our newest training resource, the Multimedia Training Program, located at laddersafetytraining.org.

Combination Ladders

A Combination Ladder is a portable ladder capable of being used as Stepladder, or as a Single or Extension Ladder. It may also be capable of being used as a Trestle Ladder or as a Stairwell Ladder. Its components may be used as Single Ladders. This type of ladder can be designed with either steps or rungs, and the inclusion of a pail shelf is optional. When steps are present, the ladder should be erected so that the step surfaces are horizontal. Either spreaders or a locking device can be used to securely hold the front and rear sections in the open position.

An instruction label appears on each Combination Ladder to either illustrate the locking mechanism, provide instructions for the locking mechanism, or both. It is important that the user become familiar with the proper operation of the locking mechanism and make sure all the joints are locked before using the ladder. Never attempt unlocking or repositioning any of the joints while standing on the ladder.

Another on-product label illustrates all the acceptable uses and positions for a given Combination Ladder. Configurations not illustrated on the label are not to be used.

The size of a Combination Ladder, when used in the Stepladder configuration, ranges from 4 feet to a maximum of 10 feet, as measured along the front side rail from the bottom of the foot to the top of the top cap or to the top of the top step when no top cap is used. The maximum Extension Ladder length is marked on the identification label.

All four feet of a Combination Ladder are covered with a slip-resistant material which must be present and in good condition before the ladder is used.

The ladder must not be used on ice, snow or slippery surfaces unless suitable means to prevent slipping is employed.

The ladder must never be placed upon other objects such as boxes, barrels, scaffolds, or other unstable bases in an effort to obtain additional height.

Combination Ladders must not be tied or fastened together with any other type of ladder to provide a longer length.

When used in the Single or Extension Ladder Mode:

Selection of proper Single or Extension Ladder size requires knowledge of the height of the top support point. In the event the top support point is a roof eave, the top of the ladder must extend approximately three feet above the roof eave if the climbers’ intent is to access the roof. The ladder must also be tied to the upper access level before climbing onto or off the ladder at the upper level. The user must take care when getting on or off the ladder at the upper level in order to avoid tipping the ladder over sideways or causing the ladder base to slide out.

Single and Extension Ladders should be erected as close to a pitch of 75 1/2 degrees from the horizontal as possible for optimum resistance against the bottom of the ladder sliding out, strength of the ladder, and balance of the climber. A simple rule for setting-up the ladder at the proper angle is to place the base a distance from the wall or upper support equal to one-quarter of the length of the ladder side rails.

The top of a Single or Extension Ladder must be placed with the two side rails equally supported unless the ladder is equipped with a single-support attachment for situations such a pole light standard, building corner or in-tree type operation such as pruning or fruit picking. When it is necessary to support the top of the ladder at a window opening, a device should be attached across the back of the ladder and extending across the window to provide firm support against the building walls or window frames.

In cases where the work site imposes a height restriction on the ladder length, the user may find that longer ladders are not capable of being set-up at the proper 75 1/2 degrees angle. To safeguard against the bottom of the ladder sliding out, select a shorter Extension or Single Ladder.

There are also situations where the use of a particular ladder length creates a gap in the height of a wall that can be reached by the user. For example, a 14-foot Single or Extension Ladder cannot be used to work on a wall below a certain height because the user would be too far out from the wall. Usually, the lower portion of the wall can be reached from the ground up to a height of about 7 feet. When working from the 14-foot Single or Extension Ladder, working from the ladder below 10-feet becomes a problem. These conditions create a gap between 7 and 10-feet in height where another ladder selection is recommended. To work in this zone, a shorter self-supporting ladder such as a Stepladder configuration should be considered.

In an effort to avoid losing your balance and falling off a Single or Extension Ladder, the user must not step or stand higher than the step indicated on the label marking the highest standing level.

When used as a Stepladder:

A Stepladder requires level ground support for all four of its side rails. If this worksite condition does not exist, the Stepladder configuration should not be selected for the job.

In order to prevent tipping the ladder over sideways due to over-reaching, the user must climb or work with the body near the middle of the steps or rungs. The ladder should be set-up close to the work. Never attempt to move the ladder without first descending, relocating the ladder, and then re-climbing. Do not attempt to mount the ladder from the side or step from one ladder to another unless the ladder is secured against sideways motion.

In an effort to avoid losing your balance and falling off the Stepladder, the user must not step or stand higher than the step indicated on the label marking the highest standing level. The user must also not step or stand on the bucket/pail shelf, if so equipped.

When ascending or descending the ladder, always face the ladder and maintain a firm hand hold. Do not attempt to carry other objects in your hand(s) while climbing.

Refer to the manufacturers instructions with regard to whether more than one person is permitted on the Combination Ladder at the same time when in the Stepladder or Trestle Ladder configuration.

When used as a Stairwell Ladder:

When used as a self-supporting Stairwell Ladder, a Combination Ladder must not be climbed on its back section.

Proper Care

A thorough inspection must be made when the ladder is initially purchased and each time it is placed into service. Clean the climbing and gripping surfaces if they have been subjected to oil, grease or slippery materials. Working parts, bolts, rivets, step-to-side rail connections, and the condition of the anti-slip feet (safety shoes) shall be checked.

Ladders exposed to excessive heat, as in the case of fire, may have reduced strength. Similarly, ladders exposed to corrosive substances such as acids or alkali materials may experience chemical corrosion and a resulting reduction in strength. Remove these ladders from service.

Broken or bent ladders, and ladders with missing or worn out parts must be taken out of service and marked, for example, “Dangerous – Do Not Use” until repaired by a competent mechanic or destroyed. No attempt shall be made to repair a ladder with a defective side rail. Ladders with bent or broken side rails must be destroyed.

In the event a ladder is discarded, it must be destroyed in such a manner as to render it useless. Another person must not be given the opportunity to use a ladder that has been deemed unsafe.

When transporting ladders on vehicles equipped with ladder racks, the ladders must be properly supported. Overhang of the ladders beyond the support points of the rack should be minimized. The support points should be constructed of material such as wood or rubber-covered pipe to minimize the effects of vibration, chafing and road shock. Securing the ladder to each support point will greatly reduce the damaging effects of road shock.

Storage racks for ladders not in use should have sufficient supporting points to avoid sagging which can result in warping the ladder. Other materials must not be placed on the ladder while it is in storage.

Combination Ladder Safety Standards

Safety requirements for Construction, Performance, Use and Care of Combination Ladders can be found in the following standards:

  • ANSI A14.1 (Portable Wood Ladders)
  • ANSI A14.2 (Portable Metal Ladders)
  • ANSI A14.5 (Portable Reinforced Plastic Ladders)

The most current revision of each standard in the ladder family can be purchased at the ANSI webstore at http://webstore.ansi.org/.

Login