Falls from ladders on NY construction sites claim the lives of numerous workers every year. Unfortunately, many of these incidents are entirely preventable—and there’s something an employer or contractor could have done to stop the accident before it occurred. In fact, state law has many regulations to prevent ladder falls on construction sites.

Section 23 Rules to Prevent Ladder Injuries on Construction Sites

NY Labor Law 241 requires owners and contractors to make construction sites as safe as possible for workers. Under Section 241(6), owners and contractors have Worker Going Down a Laddera duty to comply with any rules made by the Commissioner of the Department of Labor to carry out the provisions of the law.

The Department of Labor has since created specific construction safety rules, such as Part 23 of the New York Industrial Code. Part 23-1.21 mandates the proper uses of ladders to prevent fall injuries.

The general requirements for ladders used on construction sites include:

  • Acceptable types of ladders. The use of single pole (scaling) ladders or rail-type ladders (where rungs or cleats are attached across the pole) are prohibited, as are ladders with opaque protective coatings.
  • Approval. Any metal or fiberglass ladder for use in construction that is 10 feet or more in length must be approved.
  • Strength. Any ladder must be capable of sustaining at least four times its maximum load without breaking or loosening any component. All leaning ladders shall be rigid enough to prevent excessive sag when bearing maximum loads.
  • Inspection. All ladders must be in good condition. A ladder must be removed from service if it has a broken part or insecure joints, a wooden rung or step that has been worn down to three-quarters or less of its original thickness, or any other flaw or defect that could cause ladder failure.

Section 23 also sets rules for different ladder types, including when each may be used and the precautions that must be taken. An employer, site owner, or general contractor may be held liable for any defective conditions involving:

  • Single ladders. All single-section rung or cleat ladders may not exceed 30 feet in length. A leaning ladder shall be held in place by a person at the foot of the ladder or by mechanical means if work is being performed between 6 and 10 feet above the ladder footing. If work is performed from rungs higher than 10 feet above the ladder footing, or if the ladder is leaning against a slippery surface, the upper and lower ends must be secured.
  • Extension ladders or sectional ladders. Extension ladders may not have more than three sections or be greater than 60 feet in length when fully extended, including a minimum degree of overlap. Ladders must not be spliced to increase their length, except for extension pieces spliced to the upper ends of ladders for use as handholds.
  • Installation and use. Portable ladders must be securely fastened in place with handholds when used as a means of access between floors or levels. Metal ladders must not be used or placed in any location where they could make contact with electric power lines, power facilities, or exposed electrical parts of equipment. All ladders with spreading bases must have locks to hold such bases rigid when in the open position. No ladder should be placed in a door opening unless the doors are securely fastened open, closed, or locked to guard against swinging. All ladder footings must be firm and secure; moveable objects (such as bricks or lumber) may not be used as ladder footings.
  • Stepladders. Stepladders may only be used if side rails do not exceed 20 feet in length. While in use, a stepladder must be opened to its full position, the spreader shall be locked, and the ladder must be braced to maintain rigidity. Standing stepladders may only be used on firm, level footings. If work is being performed from a step 10 feet or more above the footing, the stepladder must be secured against sway mechanically or by a person stationed at the foot of the stepladder. If the stepladder has a pail shelf, the shelf must fold completely within the ladder. Metal ladder steps must be corrugated, dimpled, or coated with skid-resistant materials to minimize slipping.
  • Ladderways. All ladderways of more than 70 feet in height must be equipped with rest platforms at intervals not more than 35 feet apart. If ladders are used in series and a danger of falling debris exists, these ladders must be staggered or offset to provide protection from falling materials.

Let Us Help You After a Construction Accident

If you or someone you love was hurt on a New York construction site, we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact Hofmann & Schweitzer today or learn more about your rights in our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.


Timothy F. Schweitzer
Connect with me
Personal injury lawyer specializing in maritime, construction and railroad injury claims.