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OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926.1053: Ladders

Ranking: #3

The Risks

Falls from ladders can result in serious injuries, permanent disability and death. Injuries related to ladders can be traced to a variety of causes. Overreaching instead of descending and moving the ladder to a different location is a common cause. Using a ladder when some other piece of equipment is called for – like a scissor lift, mobile elevated platform or scaffolding – can also result in injuries. A ladder that is in poor condition or is not designed to handle the weight of the user is a hazard. So is placing the base of the ladder on unlevel or soft ground, as well as failing to maintain a 3-point contact with it.

Major Provisions of the Standard

  • Ladders shall be capable of supporting the following loads without failure:
  • Each self-supporting portable ladder: At least four times the maximum intended load, except that each extra-heavy-duty type 1A metal or plastic ladder shall sustain at least 3.3 times the maximum intended load. The ability of a ladder to sustain the loads indicated in this paragraph shall be determined by applying or transmitting the requisite load to the ladder in a downward vertical direction. Ladders built and tested in conformance with the applicable provisions of appendix A of this subpart will be deemed to meet this requirement.
  • Each portable ladder that is not self-supporting: At least four times the maximum intended load, except that each extra-heavy-duty type 1A metal or plastic ladders shall sustain at least 3.3 times the maximum intended load. The ability of a ladder to sustain the loads indicated in this paragraph shall be determined by applying or transmitting the requisite load to the ladder in a downward vertical direction when the ladder is placed at an angle of 75 1/2 degrees from the horizontal. Ladders built and tested in conformance with the applicable provisions of appendix A will be deemed to meet this requirement.
  • 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 at 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.
  • Ladder rungs, cleats and steps shall be parallel, level and uniformly spaced when the ladder is in position for use.
  • The rungs of individual-rung/step ladders shall be shaped such that employees’ feet cannot slide off the end of the rungs.
  • 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.
  • The rungs and steps of portable metal ladders shall be corrugated, knurled, dimpled, coated with skid-resistant material, or otherwise treated to minimize slipping.
  • Ladders shall not be tied or fastened together to provide longer sections unless they are specifically designed for such use.
  • A metal spreader or locking device shall be provided on each stepladder to hold the front and back sections in an open position when the ladder is being used.
  • When splicing is required to obtain a given length of side rail, the resulting side rail must be at least equivalent in strength to a one-piece side rail made of the same material.
  • Except when portable ladders are used to gain access to fixed ladders (such as those on utility towers, billboards and other structures where the bottom of the fixed ladder is elevated to limit access), when two or more separate ladders are used to reach an elevated work area, the ladders shall be offset with a platform or landing between the ladders.
  • Ladder components shall be surfaced so as to prevent injury to an employee from punctures or lacerations, and to prevent snagging of clothing.
  • Wood ladders shall not be coated with any opaque covering, except for identification or warning labels which may be placed on one face only of a side rail.
  • 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:
  • Ladder safety devices; or
  • Self-retracting lifelines, and rest platforms at intervals not to exceed 150 feet (45.7 m); or
  • 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).
  • Cages for fixed ladders shall conform to the following:
  • Horizontal bands shall be fastened to the side rails of rail ladders, or directly to the structure, building or equipment for individual-rung ladders.
  • Vertical bars shall be on the inside of the horizontal bands and shall be fastened to them.

Compliance Resources

OSHA’s has ladder safety publications on agriculture, construction, extension ladders, step ladders and job made ladders. Access them at: www.osha.gov/publications/bytopic/ladder-safety WMHS

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