Why Are There OSHA Fall Protection Requirements for Ladders?
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) enforces fall protection requirements for ladders. The organization believes that 100% of ladder accidents are preventable. Using properly maintained and inspected equipment and following safety training guidelines significantly reduces the chance of harm. However, statistics gathered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission reveal how serious an issue ladder safety truly is:
- Ladder-related injuries account for over 90,000 emergency room visits per year.
- Almost seven hundred occupational deaths occur annually due to elevated falls.
- Ladder-related injuries have increased by 50% in the past ten years.
Despite these dangers, ladder safety issues are among the top ten most cited violations of OSHA standards.
What Kinds of Ladders are Governed by OSHA Fall Protection Requirements?
OSHA regulations do not require fall protection for most portable ladders. These include single, extension, step, platform, and multi-function ladders, if the ladder is less than twenty-four feet long. However, OSHA recommends following portable ladder safety guidelines:
- Maintain three points of contact at all times.
- Always place the ladder on a level footing.
- Always climb and work facing the ladder.
- Secure ladders by using its braces, securing the base, or tying the top to a structure.
- Don’t overreach or lean away from the ladder.
- Don’t exceed the ladder’s weight rating.
- Use the right type of ladder for the job.
- Stay at least ten feet away from power lines.
- Avoid doorways and high traffic areas.
- Carry ladders carefully.
- Make sure folding ladder supports are fully extended.
- Inspect the ladder before each use.
- Do not use damaged ladders.
Fixed ladders, which are vertical ladders that are permanently mounted to a structure, and extension ladders that are greater than or equal to twenty-four feet long require the use of fall protection equipment. OSHA no longer requires or recommends cages for fixed ladders. Fixed ladders that currently have cages can remain, but cages are being phased out for new installations. By November 18, 2036, all ladders that are twenty-four feet long or greater must have a ladder safety system or fall protection equipment.
What Are Some Fall Protection Measures That Meet OSHA Requirements?
OSHA approves of three varieties of Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS):
- Bolt-on cable systems (with a cable grab fall arrester)
- Track systems (with a climbing trolley)
- Top-mounted self-retracting lifelines
Section 1926.502(d) of the OSHA code spells out the specific minimum requirements for PFAS fall protection on ladders twenty-four feet long and greater as required by OSHA regulation 1910.28(b)(9)(i)(B). Design Components offers equipment and expertise in all three types of PFASs and all the related accessories. Additionally, we sell compatible harnesses and vertical cable climbing systems that can be used by workers to safely and comfortably secure themselves to the PFAS.
Of course, ladders are not the only area where falls are a risk. Rooftops can be slippery and dangerous, and walking directly on roof membranes can damage the roof. That is why Design Components recommends the use of safety handrails and metal walkways like our METALWALK® Rooftop Walkway System. These products provide handholds, protective rails, and traction to prevent slips and falls. They also protect the membrane from bends and punctures. The handrail systems work in conjunction with our safety harnesses for an extra measure of safety in hazardous conditions.
Don’t Take Chances with Ladder Safety – Ask the Experts
Design Components has over forty years of experience in the industry. We understand the regulations and can guide you to the fall protection solution that is right for your workplace. Our goal is to keep you safe and productive with the confidence that comes from using top-quality equipment that keeps you compliant with OSHA regulations.