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OSHA’s NEW Fixed Ladder Standards: 5 Measurements You Need to Know

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With the deadline approaching, people have been talking about OSHA’s Revised Walking Working Standards and how those new standards relate to fixed ladders installed after mid-November of 2018.

OSHA’s new ladder regulations have been highlighted in various safety magazines and online posts, (you can download our entire primer here) but if you are looking for a “starter” list of pertinent ladder dimensions to ensure compliance, we have just the post for you.

24 Feet

The easiest—and most publicized change—has to do with ladders which extend 24 feet or higher above a lower level.  Ladders that are 24 feet or higher can no longer use “safety cages” as a means of protecting workers. Ladders newly installed – or altered – after November 19, 2018 require a ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system.

For existing fixed, or permanently mounted ladders that extend 24 feet above a lower level, OSHA developed a timeline to phase out the use of ladder cages as a means of fall protection. Ladders installed before November 19, 2018 are exempt from the requirement until 2036.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Any portion of an existing ladder that is replaced or repaired must be equipped with a ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system

The final deadline for installing a ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system for ALL ladders is November 18, 2036.

Chances are good that you may have heard about the program to do away with the cage, but OSHA has additional dimensional regulations that may mean your fixed ladders that extend 24’ or more above a lower level are NOT compliant.

Below is a quick punch list of four additional measurements to check to ensure compliance:

16 Inches

Although a current OSHA requirement, our fall protection inspection teams see ladders that do not pass the simple climbing width regulation of a minimum of 16 inches.

Per OSHA 1910.23(b)(4) Ladder rungs, steps, and cleats have a minimum clear width of 16 inches (measured before installation of ladder safety systems) for fixed ladders.

As seen in the picture below (featuring new ladder system), we recommend a wider climbing surface to accommodate a ladder lifeline system, and to make the ladder easier to climb:

fixed ladder with osha compliant 20-inch climbing width

Diversified Fall Protection’s New Ladder System has a 20-inch climbing width.

DFP’s new fixed ladder design allows for easy in-field stand-off distance accommodation around obstructions to achieve the required MINIMUM 7-inch clearance.

7 Inches

Another frequent stumbling block (literally) in passing OSHA compliance is the requirement that the ladder provide at minimum 7 inches of clear distance between the ladder rungs (centerline) and the building INCLUDING ANY PERMANENT OBSTRUCTIONS.

Per OSHA 1910.23(d)(2) The minimum perpendicular distance from the centerline of the steps or rungs, or grab bars, or both, to the nearest permanent object in back of the ladder is 7 inches.

This 7-inch minimum stand-off clearance protects the person climbing the ladder from likely trip hazards that would exist with less free space between the ladder and building.

fixed ladder with OSHA compliant stand-off distance

DFP’s new fixed ladder design allows for easy in-field stand-off distance accommodation around obstructions to achieve the required MINIMUM 7-inch clearance.

42 Inches

To protect the worker exiting a ladder, OSHA requires a 42-inch high grab bar extension above the access level or landing platform at the top of the ladder.

Per OSHA 1910.23(d)(4) – The side rails of through or sidestep ladders must extend 42 inches above the top of the access level or landing platform served by the ladder.

24 Inches

This extension above the access level must be at least 24 inches wide (to accommodate the width of climber’s body) and not more than 30 inches of clearance, allowing the climber to easily reach both hand rails.

Fixed Through Ladder OSHA Compliant

Per OSHA 1910.23(d)(5) – For through ladders, the steps or rungs are omitted from the extensions, and the side rails are flared to provide not less than 24 inches (61cm) and not more than 30 inches (76 cm) of clearance. When a ladder safety system is provided, the maximum clearance between side rails of the extension must not exceed 36 inches (91 cm).

Remember, this post only covers a handful of the key measurements one would need to take in order to verify a fixed ladder’s OSHA compliance.  The vast majority of the ladders we fail while performing ladder assessments miss the mark on one of the key measurements mentioned above.  For a complete treatment of all of the OSHA regulations pertaining to fixed ladder systems, download our Ladder E-book, or contact Diversified Fall Protection for further assistance.

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Did You Know?

All guardrail that is protecting an opening or leading edge must be able to support 200 pounds on the top rail and 150 pounds on the midrail in any direction?