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Understanding OSHA’s Updated Fixed Ladder Requirements

Falls from height is one of the leading causes of serious injuries (and deaths) at work. In 2016 OSHA updated regulations to better protect workers from fall hazards, incorporating modern safety technology to access systems. The new regulations, which went into effect November 19, 2018, changes requirements for fixed ladders extending more than 24 feet above a lower level.

GSM Industrial is always compliant with OSHA standards, which includes staying aware of and adapting to changing regulations. Our seasoned metal fabricators can help you navigate the new OSHA regulations, starting with understanding why they have changed.

Fixed Ladder Cages and Fall Protection History

Fixed ladders with cages have been the standard for protecting workers climbing to heights above 24 feet.

OSHA 1910.21 regulations stipulated that fixed ladders more than 20 ft needed a cage. A cage was defined as “an enclosure that is fastened to the side rails of the fixed ladder or to the structure to encircle the climbing space of the ladder for the safety of the person who must climb the ladder.” (Note that the definition didn’t specify how the cage would keep a person safe.)

The code also specified that any ladder over 20 ft with a cage needed landing platforms every 30 ft. However, a ladder over 20 ft that had a ladder safety device – defined as a device “designed to eliminate or reduce the possibility of accidental falls” – did not need a platform. Cages were clearly meant to slow a fall until someone was ultimately stopped by hitting a platform.

Over the years, studies have shown that cages do not provide adequate fall protection. In fact, some would say they offer no protection from falls, or they may even cause injury during a fall. In 2016 OSHA General Industry regulations were updated with new requirements aimed at improving protection from falls at height rather than general safety during a fall.

What Has Changed With OSHA Standards

OSHA updated their fixed ladder rules, Occupational Health and Safety Standards, Subpart D, Standard 1910.28. Most notably, the new standards are phasing out cages on fixed ladders. With the new regulations, a ladder over 24 ft high requires a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) or ladder safety system. Multi-section ladders more than 24ft high require platforms or rest points. Fixed ladders without cages need a landing platform at least every 150 ft.

How You Can Stay Compliant

We want to keep your company compliant and your employees safe on the job. If you aren’t sure if your ladders and access platforms are compliant with the new OSHA standards, contact us and one of our account representatives can visit your site and make recommendations on what to do next. You can also check out this OSHA Fact Sheet.

To begin evaluating your facility’s compliance, consider the following standards:

New Fixed Ladders

With OSHA’s updated standards, any new fixed ladders over 24 ft high installed at your facility should include a PFAS.

Existing Ladder Replacements or Fixes

Modifying or replacing existing ladder sections needs to include installing a fall arrest system to the modified or fixed section.

By November 18, 2036 all ladders over 24 ft need to be retrofitted with a PFAS or ladder safety system, even if you do not remove the existing cage.

Fabricating OSHA-Compliant Fixed Ladders

While this post covers the major changes to OSHA’s standards for fixed ladders more than 24 ft in height, there are many more key measurements required for fabricating OSHA-compliant fixed ladders. From climbing width, the distance between ladder rungs and a building, grab bar extension heights, clearance above access levels, to many more requirements, GSM Industrial meets every standard with excellence. Whether you need a new fixed ladder system, need to install a PFAS to an existing ladder, or anything in between, contact us to get started.