Fixed ladders can be found in a variety of industries and applications including inside a building for access to a roof hatch or to an elevated platform. Fixed ladders can also be located outside of a building to access rooftops.
Ladders continue to be a fall hazard. Because falls from heights continue to be one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths in the workplace, it stands to reason that safe fixed ladder use is important to prevent injuries and death.
OSHA has established standards for ladders which workers use in the workplace. Perhaps you’re wondering what OSHA fixed ladder requirements involve.
OSHA’s Fixed Ladder Definition
According to OSHA, a ladder is a device with rungs, steps, or cleats used to gain access to different elevations. Further, OSHA defines a fixed ladder as “a ladder with rails or individual rungs that is permanently attached to a structure, building, or equipment. Fixed ladders include individual-rung ladders, but not ship stairs, step bolts, or manhole steps.”
You may recall that OSHA’s requirements for fixed ladder safety were updated in 2018. Their fixed ladder safety requirements are located in two sections: CFR 1910.23 – Ladders and CFR 1920.28 – Duty to have fall protection and falling object protection.
Some General OSHA Fixed Ladder Requirements
1. Fixed ladders over 24 feet are required to have a fall protection system.
Formerly, fixed ladders more than 20 feet needed a ladder cage. It has been determined that cages do not provide adequate fall protection and may even cause injury during a fall. As of January 2017, OSHA changed this to require that fixed ladders which extend beyond 24 feet need to have fall protection systems in place. Essentially, OSHA CFR 1910.28(b)(9) indicates that cages are no longer considered as an acceptable means of fall protection.
Further, any fixed ladder erected prior to November 19, 2018 may still use an existing safety cage. However, new or replaced fixed ladders erected after November 19, 2018 must use a ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system.
As you can see, OSHA fixed ladder requirements provide for a phasing out of cages on fixed ladders. In fact, November 18, 2036 is the deadline for all existing ladders to be in compliance. By this date, all fixed ladders 24 feet or higher must be equipped with a personal fall arrest system or a ladder safety system.
2. Fixed ladders without cages are required to have a landing platform at maximum intervals of 150 feet.
Any fixed ladder that requires a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system must have rest platforms at intervals of no more than 150 feet. Further, any ladder system which includes a cage needs to be offset from other section(s) and have landing platforms at intervals of 50 feet or less. These sections still require a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system. Landing platforms are to provide a minimum horizontal surface of at least 24 inches by 30 inches.
3. Grab bars are to extend 42 inches above the access level or landing platforms.
To protect workers from falls while exiting the top of the ladder, according to OSHA CFR 1910.23(d)(7), grab bars should extend 42 inches above the access level or landing platform surface.
Options for Fixed Ladder Safety
Since OSHA is phasing out cages by November 18, 2036, there are two acceptable solutions for fixed ladder fall protection systems. According to OSHA’s fixed ladder requirements, these include ladder safety systems and personal fall arrest systems.
These come in a variety of designs. Three primary types include a bolt on cable system, track systems, and top mounted self-retracting lifelines.
Personal Fall Arrest for OSHA Fixed Ladder Requirements
You may be aware of what a personal fall protection system involves: a harness, lanyard, and anchor point.
One typical personal fall arrest system is a davit system which is attached to the rungs at the top of the ladder. The davit has a self-retracting lifeline attached to it. The worker connects to the system by attaching the self-retracting lifeline to the D-Ring on their harness. The davit provides the user with a grab bar for stability at the top of the ladder.
Ladder Safety Systems for Fixed Ladder OSHA Requirements
A complete ladder safety system is designed to reduce the possibility of falling from a ladder. Generally, the system consists of a carrier, safety sleeve, lanyard connector, and a body harness. A cable assembly anchored to the rungs at the top of the ladder and includes intermediate brackets to hold the cable in place. EDGE’s ladder fall arrest system paired with a body harness and safety lanyard allows the worker to climb up or down using both hands while not requiring the worker to continuously push or pull, or hold any portion of the system while climbing.
At the top of the ladder, the worker needs to cross over to the walking-working surface. One way to transition from the top of the ladder to the surface is to walk through a self-closing safety gate before unclipping from the personal arrest system or vertical lifeline.
EDGE Fall Protection has OSHA-compliant fixed ladder products available to fit your needs and applications. Our Fixed Roof Access Ladder is non-penetrating and comes with a variety of options to allow for customization for your needs and safety requirements. Some options include
Fixed Roof Access Ladder Walk-Thru Bars
These bars or boarding rails are added to a steel ladder 42 inches from the working surface of the rooftop. They allow workers to securely exit and enter the rooftop.
Fixed Roof Access Ladder Platform
This ladder platform can guide workers away from an obstruction such as a conduit or pipe or allows workers to safely cross over a slippery or wide parapet. It is also useful when a wide parapet is along a leading roof edge.
Roof Access Ladder Security Doors
These doors come at a standard height of 7 feet to ensure that no one has access to the rooftop who shouldn’t and are equipped for lockout/tagout when required.
There can be a variety of rooftop fall hazards near obstacles such as piping, ducts, or other equipment which necessitate workers traversing over these obstructions. In such situations, consider EDGE’s roof crossover ladders and stairs which are customizable, provide fall protection, and comply with OSHA regulations.
Add or upgrade your vertical safety system with EDGE’s ladder tie off and fall arrest system which transforms a fixed ladder to a personal fall arrest system ladder. This system allows workers to ascend or descend with a convenient and integrated fall arrest safety system.
In addition, EDGE offers horizontal life line systems and anchorage solutions to help you get the job done safely. Additional anchorage solutions are available for fixed vertical ladders.
Make Fixed Ladder OSHA Requirements and Safety a Priority
Falls from heights are one of the leading causes of work-related injuries and deaths. OSHA’s standards provide protection for fall prevention and fall protection. Ensure the continued safety of your workers using fixed ladders by following OSHA fixed ladder requirements.
If you need an OSHA-compliant new fixed ladder system or would like more information on our EDGE ladder products, safety systems, or any custom solution, please reach out to our knowledgeable EDGE Fall Protection team.