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Much thought was put into how ladders are designed and tested. The American National Standards Institute has subcommittees which address Portable Wood Ladders, Portable Metal Ladders, Fixed Ladders, etc. This work is memorialized in ANSI A14 consensus standards which provide guidelines for ladder manufacturers to “provide reasonable safety for life and limb.” When one purchases a ladder, they should see a label on the side which refers to either ANSI A14 or OSHA as shown in the figures.



What this means is that the manufacturer is certifying that they followed specific design and testing practices before placing the ladder into the stream of commerce. It is also means that those practices are based on the consumer using the ladder in accordance with the directions on the label.


At times, consumers are injured while using ladders. Sometimes the ladders exhibit damage after the incident. Investigations in this regard must thoroughly ferret out how the consumer was using the ladder and the condition the ladder was in prior to the incident. We investigated an injury caused by painters improperly using an extension ladder as a work platform. The painters created the work platform by spanning the ladder across two saw horses. In another instance a construction ladder that fell off a work truck and was damaged and then subsequently used which lead to the ladder failing and ultimately causing injury.


Companies or individuals who intend on creating a ladder for a specific purpose – perhaps because an off-the-shelf configuration is not available –  are encouraged to follow the best practices published in the ANSI standards. These are available for purchase on-line. OSHA has summarized some of the ANSI ladder information in a free PDF document also available on-line entitled Stairways and Ladders – A Guide to OSHA Rules OSHA 3124-12R 2003.