Unsafe ladder usage can pose serious risk of injury

Ladders, the essential piece of equipment used to help give maintenance workers at your camp a leg up, can also cause serious injuries if not used properly.

Thousands of people suffer serious injuries each year when falling from ladders. Many falls result in lifelong disability or even death.

Following safety precautions and selecting the right ladder for the job can help reduce or prevent the risk of injury to your camp maintenance team.


Consider the type of work the ladder will be used for, the weight it will carry, and the general condition of the ladder when choosing the ladder for the job. 

Ladders are constructed under five duty ratings:

Type IAA — Industrial: A special heavy-duty ladder with a load capacity of 375 pounds.

Type IA — Industrial: An extra-heavy-duty ladder with a load capacity of 300 pounds.

Type I — Industrial: A heavy-duty ladder with a load capacity of 250 pounds.

Type II — Commercial: A medium-duty ladder with a load capacity of 225 pounds.

Type III — Household: A light-duty ladder with a load capacity of 200 pounds.

A job might require a combination of a straight ladder, an extension ladder or a stepladder.

Ladders are constructed from three common materials: metal/aluminum, wood and fiberglass. Keep the following information in mind when selecting the appropriate ladder material:

  • Metal/aluminum ladders should not be used near power lines or while doing electrical work. Look for slip-resistant rubber feet and steps.

  • Wood ladders can conduct electricity when they're wet. Avoid wood ladders with large knots or if they show signs of deterioration. Steps should be reinforced with metal rods or braces securely attaching the steps to the side rails.

  • Fiberglass ladders should be inspected for loose or missing components, cracks and chips.

In general, if buying a new ladder, a nonconductive fiberglass model is recommended over metal or wood.


Proper maintenance will help protect and prolong the life of a ladder. Inspect ladders before each use and periodically clean them to remove dirt, grease or paint that might conceal any defects. 

Wood ladders should be protected with a clear sealer. Look for splinters, broken rungs, cracks, rot, loose joints and hardware in poor condition. Promptly discard and destroy any unsafe or deteriorating wooden ladders.

Inspect metal and fiberglass ladders for rough burrs or sharp edges. Look for faulty welds, cracks and loose joints and bolts. Replace worn or frayed ropes and make sure the hooks and locks are in good working condition.

When a defect is found on any ladder during inspection, clearly mark the ladder with a red DO NOT USE tag and dispose of the damaged ladder. 

Store ladders in their closed position in a sheltered, well-ventilated area. Straight and extension ladders should be stored horizontally on racks or hooks with support points at the top, middle and bottom of the ladders.


When setting up a ladder, select a site with solid and even ground. Avoid slippery, wet or icy surfaces. Look for and avoid any overhead obstructions, especially power lines. 

A ladder should not be placed in front of a door that is not locked or blocked-off. Avoid using a ladder during inclement weather conditions. 

When setting up an extension ladder, raise the ladder to the desired height and engage the locks on both sides. The base of the ladder should be spaced 1 foot away from the surface it leans against for every 4 feet in height to the point where the ladder rests. 

Never use a stepladder as a straight ladder. When setting up the ladder, be sure the legs are fully extended and the braces locked.


When using a straight or extension ladder, have a person at the base of the ladder to keep it steady for the person who climbs the ladder. 

Face the ladder when climbing or descending and use both hands. Carry equipment and tools on a belt to keep hands free.

Use a hanger or shelf for paint cans and other tools. Be sure the soles of shoes are clean and dry. 

Use the three-point rule when working on a ladder. The climber must maintain three points of contact at all times. Three out of their four limbs must be touching the ladder at all times.

While climbing or working on ladders, body position should be near the middle of the step or rung to keep the load on the ladder centered. Do not overreach from the center position. Rather, descend and reposition the ladder, if necessary. Ladders should be tall enough to reach 3 feet above the highest point accessed by the ladder, such as a rooftop. 

Do not climb higher than the third rung from the top on straight or extension ladders or the second step from the top of stepladders. Do not leave a raised ladder unattended.

View our Ladder Inspection Checklist for more information.

We’re here to help! For additional questions, contact Church Mutual Insurance Company’s Risk Control Central.

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Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. (a stock insurer)
P.O. Box 357 | 3000 Schuster Lane | Merrill, WI 54452-0357
Telephone (800) 554-2642 or (715) 536-5577

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