The 4-to-1 Rule

The 4-to-1 rule for ladders is a ratio. This ratio compares the distance of the base of the ladder from the wall to the height it reaches on the wall; for every four feet the ladder reaches up, the base needs to be one foot away from the wall.

The 4-to-1 rule helps to stabilize the ladder in use and prevent an accident or injury. The higher you climb a ladder and the closer it is to the wall or vertical surface, the less stable it will become. Following this rule ensures stability because the ladder won’t be too close to the wall.

Throughout the rest of this article we will discuss why ladder safety training is important.

Why is Ladder Safety Training Important?

Falls from heights make up 20 percent of fatal injuries in the work industry; this includes falls from ladders. There are many potential factors that can cause a fall from a ladder. Most of these causes actually stem from the lack of employee safety training. Take this case study, for example:

Sammy was working from a ladder to install a security camera at a height of 8 feet. As he was connecting the wires, he dropped one of the wire caps and instinctively tried to catch it. The sudden movement of his body sent the ladder tipping. Sammy lost his balance and ended up falling. His coworkers found him unconscious and rushed him to the hospital. At the hospital he was treated for a major concussion and multiple bone fractures.

The most common causes of falls from ladders are the base of the ladder slides or the ladder becomes unbalanced and tips over. Both of these accidents can be avoided by ensuring that employees know how to use a ladder as well as how to identify hazards. Ladder safety training is the most effective way to prevent accidents and injuries from happening.

OSHA Standards for Ladder Safety

Falls from any height are the second leading cause of workplace-related fatalities. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a lot of standards on ladder safety. We will discuss all OSHA standards on ladder safety throughout the following sections.

Ladder Maintenance & Inspections

OSHA requires that all ladders must be maintained and kept free of structural and stability-related hazards.

All ladders should be inspected regularly; it is important to check for defects that could affect their safe use. If any defects are found, the ladder cannot be used again until it is repaired or replaced.

Ladder Weight Limits

OSHA states that employees should always follow the weight limits for the specific ladder they use. A drop test consisting of an 18-inch drop of 500-pound weight should be able to tell if the ladder is stable and safe to work on. For clarification, the ladder will be stabilized up against a wall, standing vertically during the drop test.

If the ladder is still secure after the drop test, then the ladder is considered safe. Employees should ensure to never load a ladder beyond the maximum carry weight, which includes the overall weight of all employees, equipment, tools, and materials being carried.

Basic Ladder Safety

Climbing a ladder at work may seem like a fairly simple and safe task; however, OSHA has many standards on ladder safety because ladder-related accidents happen all the time.

OSHA requires that a ladder is never used for a purpose that it was not designed for. Employees should also never use a ladder on a surface that is not stable or level. If employees need to use a ladder on a hazardous surface, they must secure and stabilize it. Another important standard to follow is that a ladder should never be moved, shifted, or extended if an employee is working on it.

Climbing on Ladders

Employees should always follow OSHA’s standards when it comes to safe ladder climbing practices. Some of these safe practices are:

Ladder Extensions

Employees should always follow the extension’s weight and height limits. Different types of extensions will have different limits, so it is important to pay attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations and limits for each one.

Extensions can be a very beneficial tool because it allows employees to access an elevated surface. However, if ladder extensions are not used properly, they can be very dangerous to work on.

Different Types of Ladders

There are many different types of ladders—each one being useful for a different type of task or job. Even though the use and structure of the ladders may be different, OSHA ladder safety standards apply to all ladders and workplaces.

To better understand the different types of ladders, we will discuss the four most commonly used ladders.


Stepladders are the most common ladder type with universal features. Meaning that not only are they used in the work industry, but they can also be useful as a household tool. It has a self-supporting structure, which means it doesn’t have to be propped up on a wall. The stepladder also folds together for easy transportation.

While the height of the stepladder is not adjustable, it can range anywhere from 4 to 20 feet. The recommended capacity is one person at a time.

Straight Ladders

Straight ladders, also known as single ladders, are non-self-supporting ladders. Straight ladders must have some form of anchor point. Straight ladders are portable, but they do not fold as stepladders do. Straight ladders can be as tall as 30 feet and can only hold one person at a time.

Extension Ladders

Extension ladders use two to three sections of tracks to provide extra length on the ladder when necessary. Extension ladders are very similar to straight ladders in their structure and look. They are non-self-supported like straight ladders as well.

A two-section extension ladder could extend to 60 feet. A three-sectioned extension ladder could extend to 72 feet. This ladder is also only built for single-person capacity.

Platform Ladders

A platform ladder is a self-supporting ladder with a platform at the top. A platform ladder’s design allows employees to stand at its highest point. This is something you cannot do with other types of ladders. The height of the platform ladder is non-adjustable and only reaches to about 18 feet.

Three Points of Contact

The 4-to-1 rule is not the only safety rule that helps to minimize falls from ladders. There is also a rule referred to as three points of contact.

A lot of the contributing factors when it comes to falls from ladders include sudden movements and lack of attention. The most efficient way to ensure your safety while using a ladder is by maintaining three points of contact at all times. Whether that be two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand; maintain this contact when you’re climbing up, down, or working on the ladder.

Personal Protective Equipment

mes to working on ladders, the only PPE you might need is a pair of sturdy-soled shoes to prevent you from slipping. However, some employees working on ladders have a higher risk of falling. In this case, the employee may need to use PPE like:

Ladder Safety Training

OSHA requires employers to ensure that their employees are efficiently trained when it comes to ladder safety. The training must be able to teach each employee how to recognize hazards related to ladders. It should also train the employees in the procedures that will help to minimize hazards.

Employers should also ensure that each employee receives the required training. Some examples of what topics OSHA requires of ladder safety courses are:

Our Ladder Safety Training

Here at Hard Hat Training, we offer a ladder safety training that is compliant with OSHA training standards. Our course covers topics such as how to:

Here’s How We Work

The safety training process should be efficient, engaging, and affordable for everyone involved. Here at Hard Hat Training, our course catalog presents our customers with over 200 complete training topics and courses. Each of our courses are fully-narrated and designed to keep our end-user engaged during the training process.

All our courses comply with OSHA standards and contain all of the necessary safety information that you need. For ladder safety, we have available many options, view them all on our Ladder Safety Training Page or go straight to our Ladder Safety – Competent Person Course.

Feel free to reach out to our customer service team for more information today.