The focus of this article will be on the OSHA Construction Standards for Ladder Safety. The General Industry Standard is 1910.24-27.
OSHA Subpart X-Stairways and Ladders specifies the rules for ladders. There are three specific standards within the subpart that address ladder safety.
1926.1050 provides the Scope, Application and Definitions for the Subpart. Here is the official definition of a portable ladder Portable ladder means a ladder that can be readily moved or carried.
1926.1051 provides General Requirements. Here’s the language that indicates when a stairway or ladder is required. ”A stairway or ladder shall be provided at all personnel points of access where there is a break in elevation of 19 inches (48 cm) or more, and no ramp, runway, sloped embankment, or personnel hoist is provided.”
1926.1053 is where you find the specifics for ladders. Fixed ladder and portable ladder rules are mixed together, so it is important to read the standards carefully. It is also important to pay attention to distinctions between portable extension ladders where the distance between siderails is no less than 11” and step ladders where the distance must be at least 16”
The standard provides detailed information relating to required load ratings, construction materials and dimensions, cage and offset requirements for fixed ladders etc. Fortunately ladder manufacturers and most ladder installers are aware of these rules. The one rule that is not always followed by installers is the requirement to offset the ladder at each 30’ section. This is a general industry standard that is often cited by OSHA.
The greatest number of OSHA citations relating to ladder safety involves the use of portable ladders. The citations generally fall into ladder conditions and workers’ use of the ladder.
Inspections must be part of a ladder safety program. Here is how the standard reads relating to ladder inspections: “Ladders shall be inspected by a competent person for visible defects on a periodic basis and after any occurrence that could affect their safe use.” This more formal inspection should be supplemental to a daily pre-use inspection performed by the user of the ladder. A good visual inspection goes a long way to ensuring safety on the ladder and to meet OSHA standards.
Using the ladder improperly is a common OSHA standard violation. OSHA inspectors have observed the following ladder safety issues during inspections:
- Worker standing on top of a step ladder.
- Step ladder propped against a wall and being used as a ladder
- Portable ladder accessing an upper area not extended the required minimum of 3’.
- Ladders taped together.
- Worker straddling two straight ladders
Employee training and reinforcement by job supervisors will help to prevent these types of occurrences.
Ladder safety can be summed up this way. Make sure it is safe to use and then use it safely.
Here are links to some useful ladder safety information and tools.
NIOSH Ladder Safety App for smartphones:
OSHA Quick Card for Portable Ladders:
Ladder Inspection Forms-Portable and Fixed Checklist from the Fermi National Accelerator Lab of the US Department of Energy
OSHA Publication – Stairways and Ladders in Construction
Rich Galutia CSP specializes in the areas of employee safety (OSHA), trucking compliance (FMCSA) and animal feed safety (FDA).