Understanding New OSHA fixed ladder regulations:

In 2018, OSHA implemented new requirements on fixed ladders attached to buildings and structures.  In the past, OSHA required safety cages on ladders over 20’ in height with offset rest platforms every 30’ of ladder height.  The new guidelines remove cages as a requirement, replacing them with fall protection devices.  A typical fall protection device on a fixed ladder can include a “cable grab” or “rigid track” fall arrest system.

At Ascend Fab, we have found that most of our clients prefer safety cages on their ladder systems.  Safety cages are so named because they have positive proven track history.  Additionally, they provide a benefit to the climber with a surrounding enclosure, which also provides a “calming effect” for the user.  Uncaged ladders that utilize a fall protection device leave the climber exposed with no surrounding enclosure.  They also rely on the user to always wear a body harness, which is connected to a cable or track.  Where OSHA blew it with this change in regulation is in their lack of awareness that users in their “haste and hurry” will access uncaged fixed ladders without the use of the safety harness.  An open uncaged ladder with no harness connected is a disastrous scenario.

At Ascend Fab, we recommend the continued use of safety cage enclosures on ladders exceeding 20’ in height.  Based on new OSHA requirements, clients should also base their selection on the following:

  • Per OSHA, fixed ladders under 24’ height do not require a cage or fall arrest system (FAS). A security safety cage is optional for the client.  (A safety cage typically commences approximately 7’ above grade level.)  What is your comfort level?
  • Per OSHA, ladders over 24’ height, require a “track”, “cable grab” or “other type” of fall arrest system (FAS). The safety cage remains optional.
  • When a safety cage is utilized, always purchase a lock-out hoop guard or security door, which keeps unauthorized personnel from accessing the ladder.
  • Always use grab bars at the top of fixed ladders on buildings and parapet platforms when the exterior building sidewall terminates at a different elevation than the building roof level.
  • Per OSHA, if your fixed ladder with cage and FAS exceeds 50’ in height, a rest/safety platform is required.
  • Per OSHA, if your uncaged ladder with FAS exceeds a 150’ in height, a rest/safety platform is required.

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