Construction Risk Insights: Job-made Wooden Ladders

By | April 22, 2014

Construction Risk InsightsWorkers who use job-made wooden ladders risk permanent injury or death from falls and electrocutions. By understanding the hazards that workers are likely to encounter while working on job-made wooden ladders, employers can take steps to reduce injuries through proper training.

What is a Job-made Wooden Ladder?

A job-made wooden ladder is a ladder built at the construction site. It is not commercially manufactured. A job-made wooden ladder provides access to and from a work area. It is not intended to serve as a work platform. These ladders are temporary, and are used only until a particular phase of work is completed or until permanent stairways or fixed ladders are installed.

Training Requirements

Employers must provide a training program for employees who use ladders and stairways. The training must enable each worker to recognize ladder-related hazards and to use ladders properly to minimize hazards.


Constructing a Safe Job-made Wooden Ladder


Side rails

  • Use construction-grade lumber for all components.
  • Side rails of single-cleat ladders up to 24 feet long should be made with at least 2-by-6-inch nominal stock lumber.
  • Side rails should be continuous, unless splices are the same strength as a continuous rail of equal length.
  • The width of single-rung ladders should be at least 16 inches, but not more than 20 inches between rails measured inside to inside.
  • Rails should extend above the top landing between 36 inches and 42 inches to provide a handhold for mounting and dismounting, and cleats must be eliminated above the landing level.
  • Side rails of ladders that could contact energized electrical equipment should be made using nonconductive material. Keep ladders free of any slippery materials.



  • Cleats should be equally spaced 12 inches on center from the top of one cleat to the top of the next cleat.
  • Cleats should be fastened to each rail with three 12d common wire nails which are nailed directly onto the smaller surfaces of the side rails.
  • Making cuts in the side rails to receive the cleats is not advisable.
  • Cleats should be at least 1 inch by 4 inches for ladders 16 feet to 24 feet in length.


Filler Blocks

  • Filler should be 2-by-2-inch wood strips.
  • Insert filler between cleats.
  • Nail filler at the bottom of each side rail first. Nail the ends of a cleat to each side rail with three 12d common nails. One nail is placed 1½ inches in from each end of the filler block.
  • Nail the next two fillers and cleat, and then repeat. The ladder is complete when filler is nailed at the top of each rail.
  • Make all side rails, rungs and fillers before the ladder is assembled.


Inspecting Ladders

  • A competent person must visually inspect job-made ladders for defects on a periodic basis and after any occurrence that could affect their safe use.
  • Defects to look for include: structural damage, broken/split side rails (front and back), missing cleats/steps and parts/labels painted over.
  • Ladders should be free of oil, grease and other slipping hazards.


Safe Ladder Use—Dos:

To prevent workers from being injured from falls from ladders, employers are encouraged to adopt the following practices:

  • Secure the ladder’s base so that it does not move.
  • Smooth the wood surface of the ladder to reduce injuries to workers from punctures or lacerations and to prevent snagging of clothing.
  • Use job-made wooden ladders with spliced side rails at an angle so that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is one-eighth the working length of the ladder.
  • Ensure that job-made wooden ladders can support at least four times the maximum intended load.
  • Only use ladders for the purpose for which they were designed.
  • Only put ladders on stable, level surfaces that are not slippery, unless they are secured to prevent accidental movement.
  • Ensure that the worker faces the ladder when climbing up and down.
  • Maintain a three-point contact (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) when climbing a ladder.
  • Keep ladders free of any slippery materials.
  • Maintain good housekeeping in the areas around the top and bottom of ladders.


Safe Ladder Use—Don’ts:

To prevent injuries, employers are encouraged to avoid the following practices:

  • Painting a ladder with nontransparent coatings
  • Carrying any object or load that could cause the worker to lose balance and fall
  • Subjecting a job-made wooden ladder to excessive loads or impact tests


Contact The Buckner Company at [B_Phone] for additional information and employee training materials on ladder safety or fall prevention in general.


Source: OSHA

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