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As simple as using a ladder seems to be, the injury statistics indicate that it is one of the most incorrectly used tools on the job. Most incidents result from overreaching or overextending from portable step ladders to complete certain tasks, rather than doing the safe thing—climbing down and moving to a better access point. OSHA studies have shown that 100% of ladder related accidents could have been prevented using proper safety.

Safety hazards associated with ladder use include slips and falls, tip-overs, electric shocks, failure due to defects and damage, and failure from overloading. Examples of improper safety include using one that is too short, using the wrong type of ladder, not using a ladder when one should be used, reaching too far to the side, and using not as intended.

To ensure you choose the portable step ladder best suited to your needs, follow the height safety chart below. The highest permitted standing level on a portable step ladder is two steps down from the top. A person standing higher may lose their balance and fall.

Choosing the right portable step ladder reach/height

Portable step ladders would include the length of the ladder when open as well as a maximum height you want to reach, calculated for an average person’s height of 5’9” with a vertical reach of 12”. So if you know how high you want to reach, let’s say 10’, you would likely purchase a 6’ step ladder allowing you to safely stand almost 4’ above the ground.

Step ladders
Ladder Size Approx. Highest Standing Level Maximum Reach
4' 1'11" 8'6"
5' 2'10" 9'5"
6' 3'9" 10'4"
7' 4'9" 11'4"
8' 5'8" 12'3"
10' 7'7" 14'2"
12' 9'6" 16'1"
14' 11'5" 18'
16' 13'4" 19'11"
18' 15'3" 21'10"
20' 17'2" 23'8"