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Vertical Lifelines and Ladder Systems

Each year, countless numbers of workers lose footing while carrying tools and materials up ladders due to the presence of grease, mud, snow, ice and water.   Sadly, many of these ladder related accidents are preventable with the use of a vertical lifeline and a rope grab system.  A vertical lifeline allows movement up and down the entire height of the line, eliminating the need to disconnect and find a new tie-off points while ascending or descending from a tower or ladder. By connecting to the vertical lifeline using a “rope grab” deceleration device, users may move as long as tension is slack on the lifeline. In the event of a fall, the rope grab automatically engages the vertical lifeline and locks, arresting the fall and potentially saving a life.

Vertical Lifeline and Ladder System Design Considerations

Although OSHA regulations do not require the use of a vertical lifeline, all fixed ladders over 24 feet in height require a cage.  Ladder cages consist of a series of circular safety hoops and vertical steel bars fastened to the stiles.  Although ladder cages may impart a sense of safety, they are not designed to arrest falls; ladder cage systems merely prevent worker falling backwards.  In the event of a fall directly down without regaining a grip, a worker can sustain serious injury or easily injure others below on the ladder. For these reasons, we recommend a vertical lifeline as part of every permanent structural ladder design.

Whether your facility uses permanent ladder systems, portable ladders, or a combination of both, DFP fall protection engineers can help identify your ladder fall hazards, make specific recommendations to increase the safety of your ladder systems, and implement a safety and training program to ensure worker safety and OSHA compliance.

OSHA Considerations

1926.1053(a)(1)(iii)
Each Fixed ladder: At least two loads of 250 pounds (114 kg) each, concentrated between any two consecutive attachments (the number and position of additional concentrated loads of 250 pounds (114 kg) each, determined from anticipated usage of the ladder, shall also be included), plus anticipated loads caused by ice buildup, winds, rigging, and impact loads resulting from the use of ladder safety devices. Each step or rung shall be capable of supporting a single concentrated load of a least 250 pounds (114 kg) applied in the middle of the step or rung. Ladders built in conformance with the applicable provisions of appendix A will be deemed to meet this requirement.

1926.1053(a)(2)
Ladder rungs, cleats, and steps shall be parallel, level, and uniformly spaced when the ladder is in position for use.

1926.1053(a)(3)(i)
Rungs, cleats, and steps of portable ladders (except as provided below) and fixed ladders (including individual-rung/step ladders) shall be spaced not less than 10 inches (25 cm) apart, nor more than 14 inches (36 cm) apart, as measured between center lines of the rungs, cleats and steps.

1926.1053(a)(6)(i)
The rungs and steps of fixed metal ladders manufactured after March 15, 1991, shall be corrugated, knurled, dimpled, coated with skid-resistant material, or otherwise treated to minimize slipping.

1926.1053(a)(18)
Fixed ladders shall be provided with cages, wells, ladder safety devices, or self-retracting lifelines where the length of climb is less than 24 feet (7.3 m) but the top of the ladder is at a distance greater than 24 feet (7.3 m) above lower levels.

1926.1053(a)(19)
Where the total length of a climb equals or exceeds 24 feet (7.3 m), fixed ladders shall be equipped with one of the following:

1926.1053(a)(19)(i)
Ladder safety devices; or

1926.1053(a)(19)(ii)
Self-retracting lifelines, and rest platforms at intervals not to exceed 150 feet (45.7 m); or

1926.1053(a)(19)(iii)
A cage or well, and multiple ladder sections, each ladder section not to exceed 50 feet (15.2 m) in length. Ladder sections shall be offset from adjacent sections, and landing platforms shall be provided at maximum intervals of 50 feet (15.2 m).

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