The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ladder standards are intended to keep workers safe and limit the number of fall-related injuries and deaths. It is important to understand these standards so your workplace is compliant and your employees can be safe.
Understanding the Fixed Ladder Standards
OSHA created fixed ladder standards to provide protection for those working in an industry that requires the use of ladders. Falls, whether from a certain height or simply on the floor, are one of the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths, making these regulations essential. Under these regulations, OSHA believes there will be 29 fewer fatalities and 5,842 less workday injuries every year.
Under the fixed ladder standards, certain things have changed:
- Height requirement: Before these standards were implemented, OSHA ladder fall protection standards applied to those taller than 20 feet. Now, ladders taller than 24 feet are required to follow the ladder fall protection regulations in OSHA standard 1910.23.
- Equipment: Cages were considered compliant and adequate fall protection for fixed ladders before these new standards. Now, fixed ladders must have a personal fall arrest system or a ladder safety system.
- Repair: If there is any damage to your ladder, or any sections, cages or wells previously installed on it are no longer functioning, you must replace those pieces with a personal fall arrest system or a ladder safety system.
These rules and regulations affect a wide variety of industries and employees. Construction and agricultural standards remain the same as they always have, but other employees, from window washers to chimney sweeps, will need to follow these fixed ladder standards.
The standards are not meant to be financially burdensome but rather use technology, industry best practices and national consensus standards to protect workers in effective and cost-efficient ways.
Originally, qualified climbers in the outdoor advertising were exempt from these rules. These standards eliminated that exception.
Benefits to Employers
The changes to this standard are a good thing for employers. It gives them the flexibility to choose a fall protection system that is right for their business without being forced into something that could be difficult to implement or not necessarily the safest option for their unique situation. A lot of the requirements OSHA has put in place lend themselves to general industry and construction, but the flexibility provided to employers is helpful to those in other industries.
Timeline for Fixed Ladder Standards Compliance
The fixed ladder standards went into effect on January 17, 2017, but there are other dates of note you should be aware of. Most have already passed, so the following may act more as a checklist to make sure you are compliant with the rule at this time:
- May 17, 2017: Workers who are exposed to fall risk must be trained on fall hazards. Those who use equipment that falls under this rule must be trained comprehensively and appropriately.
- November 20, 2017: Permanent anchorages on rope descent systems must be both inspected and certified.
- November 19, 2018: Specifics came out on this day, and the standards required ladder safety systems or personal fall arrests on fixed ladders that were at least 24 feet tall. It also included replacement ladders or sections of ladders as well as fixed ladders on outdoor advertising structures. This means the ladders above 24 feet must have certain safety equipment added on, like fall arrest systems or ladder safety systems.
- November 18, 2036: This is the one element of the standards that has yet to reach its date of enforcement. By this date, cages and wells used for fall protection have to be removed and ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems should be added.
Fall Protection Options
General industries need to provide workers with fall protection at 4 feet, and construction industry workers need protection at 6 feet. OSHA also has standards for various, specific situations. These include hoist areas, runways, wall openings, stairways, repair pits, scaffolds and areas above dangerous equipment.
Beyond the implementation of these systems, the standards provide guidance for performance, inspection, use and maintenance upkeep to ensure they are functioning properly.
Under the OSHA fall protection rule, you can choose from these options:
- Guardrail system: A guardrail system includes a barrier that adds a level of protection to a previously unprotected or exposed side, edge or area. These should be present in a walking-working surface where there is a change in levels to protect employees working in that area.
- Safety net system: A safety net system is a cantilever-style barrier that can be horizontal or semi-horizontal with a netting system that catches workers should they fall before they land on a lower level or other obstructions.
- Personal fall arrest system: This type of system works similarly to the safety net system in that it stops the fall before the person makes impact with anything. The contraption utilizes a body harness, anchorage and connector with some other possibilities.
- Positioning system: A positioning system uses equipment and connectors with a body harness that supports workers when they are working on an elevated vertical or surface while their hands are free to work. These are especially useful for window cleaners.
- Travel restraint system: This system supports a worker by the use of a combination of an anchorage, connector, lanyard and body support to prevent injury should they slip over an unprotected edge or side.
- Ladder safety system: This system protects workers by reducing the risk of a worker falling off a ladder.
Contact FIXFAST USA for Compliant Fall Protection
OSHA standards say that ladders must be able to support their maximum intended load. Portable ladders specifically must be able to support four times their maximum intended load. At FIXFAST USA, we offer a variety of ladder styles and safety gear in our KATTCLIMB® series:
- Standard fixed ladders: Our vertical fixed ladders come in a variety of kits to fit your unique needs. They are modular and manufactured of high-tensile aluminum, prepared to meet every security standard.
- Angled fixed ladders: Angled fixed ladders are especially suited for small elevation changes. Our angled ladders also meet OSHA standards.
- Fall arrest fixed ladders: When your ladder needs to extend higher than 24 feet, our fall arrest systems will help you make them OSHA compliant. They provide continuous, hands-free fall protection.
- Fold-down access ladders: These fold-down ladders provide you the ability to maximize your storage space, as the ladders are compact but still provide the safety and security you need.
Contact FIXFAST USA today to learn how we can help you ensure your industry is compliant with OSHA standards.