Document Type




Publication Date



The development of a theoretical model to predict the four equilibrium forces of reaction on a simple ladder of non-adjustable length leaning against a wall has long remained an unresolved matter. The difficulty is that the problem is statically indeterminate and therefore requires complementary information to obtain a unique solution. This paper reports 1) a comprehensive theoretical analysis of the three fundamental models based on treating the ladder as a single Euler-Bernoulli beam, and 2) a detailed experimental investigation of the forces of reaction as a function of applied load and location of load. In contrast to previous untested proposals that the solution to the ladder problem lay in the axial constraint on compression or the transverse constraint on flexure, the experimental outcome of the present work showed unambiguously that 1) the ladder could be modeled the best by a pinned support at the base (on the ground) and a roller support at the top (at the wall), and 2) the only complementary relation needed to resolve the static indeterminacy is the force of friction at the wall. Measurements were also made on the impact loading of a ladder by rapid ascent and descent of a climber. The results obtained were consistent with a simple dynamical model of the ladder as a linear elastic medium subject to a pulse perturbation. The solution to the ladder problem herein presented provides a basis for theoretical extension to other types of ladders. Of particular importance, given that accidents involving ladders in the workplace comprise a significant fraction of all industrial accidents, the theoretical relations reported here can help determine whether a collapsed structure, against which a ladder was applied, met regulatory safety limits or not.


Published under Open Access terms as:

M P Silverman, “Reaction Forces on a Fixed Ladder in Static Equilibrium: Analysis and Definitive Experimental Test of the Ladder Problem”, World Journal of Mechanics vol 8 (2018) 311-342 :

Publication Title

World Journal of Mechanics



First Page


Last Page




Included in

Physics Commons