Stairways and Ladders

The focus of this safety and health page is limited to the hazards associated with stairways and ladders in the construction industry. Included under this heading are the requirements for ladder safety as it pertains to construction applications. For general industry, refer to the safety and health topic page for walking and working surfaces.

A stairway (or stairs) is a series of steps leading from one level or floor to another. A series of steps and landings having three or more risers constitutes a stairway (or stairs).

A ladder is an appliance usually consisting of two side rails joined at regular intervals by cross-pieces called steps, rungs, or cleats, on which a person may step when ascending or descending.

Stairways and Ladders

Tab/Accordion Items

What are the hazards associated with stairways and ladders?

The major hazard associated with stairways and ladders is serious injury and death due to falls to a lower level. In addition, workers may become electrocuted when using metal ladders that contact live electrical parts or lines.


What can I do to protect myself?

Ladders should always be checked for damage before using them. Never exceed the manufacturer's load limit for a ladder which includes the weight of the user and any materials and equipment carried by them. Always maintain three (3) points of contact when ascending and descending a ladder.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Training and Outreach Services

A presentation on stairways and ladders in construction is available for workplaces to assist in training their staff. The presentation should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards. This pre-recorded webinar on stairways and ladders can also be accessed at any time.

In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. 

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

Safety and Health Programs

The jobsite inspection checklist has a section devoted to ladders that can be used as a quick check for improper maintenance and use of ladders at a construction job site. Where fall protection may be applicable, an example fall protection training certificate can be used to document employer's training. The fall protection plan for residential construction can be downloaded and customized to fit an individual work setting. 

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

The A-Z topics page has information on fall protection that may be another resource for the employer or employee. 

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.



Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards for stairways and ladders in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 


Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Where can I learn more?

Industry Guides

Technical Assistance

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to or by calling 919-707-7876.