OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor

Process: Surface Preparation and Preservation


Scaffolds, Ladders, and Other Working Surfaces

Improper placement angle of ladder; less than 4 to 1 ratio (height of ladder to horizontal distance at base of ladder)

Improper placement angle of ladder; less than 4 to 1 ratio (height of ladder to horizontal distance at base of ladder).

Improper practice; broken ladder rung

Improper practice; broken ladder rung.

Illustratoin of scaffolding

Surface Preparation and the Use of Ladders

During surface preparation activities, workers often need to gain access to multiple levels and areas that are hard to reach.  Workers often use ladders to access these areas, but falls can occur due to structural failure, poor placement, and unsafe use.  The safe construction and use of ladders it vital to protect workers from fall hazards.  Also, adequate training on safe ladder use, such as inspecting the condition of the ladder before use, are important components of an effective safety and health program.

Potential Fall Hazards:

  • Structural failure of the ladder or its components.
  • Unsafe use (e.g., over-extending, climbing with equipment in hand, not facing ladder when climbing down).
  • Inappropriate ladder placement (e.g., ladder angle).
  • Unsecured ladder, causing the ladder to fall.
  • Working on ladders above the height of lifelines.

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • Defective ladders must be immediately removed from service (29 CFR 1915.72(a)(1)).
  • When splicing ladders, special precautions are required (29 CFR 1915.72(a)(2)).
  • Portable ladders must be secured (29 CFR 1915.72(a)(3)).
  • Ladders used for access must extend at least 36 inches above the upper landing (29 CFR 1915.72(a)(3)).
  • Portable metal or wood ladders must be manufactured in accord with ANSI standards (29 CFR 1915.72(a)(4) and (a)(6)).
  • Do not use portable metal ladders near electrical shock hazards (e.g., conductors, electric arc welding) (29 CFR 1915.72(a)(5)).
  • Any worker positioned at a height above the height of lifelines should be protected from falling over the edge through the use of fall protection equipment or by repositioning the ladder.
  • Only one worker should be allowed on a ladder at a time, unless the ladder is designed for additional workers.
  • Unless a ladder is designed to be used in the horizontal position, they should not be used as platforms, runways, or scaffolds.
  • Workers visually restricted by blasting hoods, welding helmets, and burning goggles must work from scaffolds, not from ladders (29 CFR 1915.77(c)).
  • If a ship's ladder in a cargo hold is defective, portable ladders must be used in their place (29 CFR 1915.76(a)(3)).

Note: Specific requirements for the construction of portable wooden ladders that are less than 30 feet, and between 30 to 60 feet can be found at 29 CFR 1915.72(b) and (c), respectively.

Use of Scaffolds (Staging) during Surface Preparation and Preservation

Scaffolds, or staging, are systems used to provide an elevated working surface. Staging comes in several varieties and is often constructed to fit the ship. Staging must be adequate for the work performed (29 CFR 1915.71).

Before working on or near any scaffolding, check to make sure that the scaffold is:

A worker grinding while protected by proper toprail, midrail, and toeboard.

A worker grinding while protected by proper toprail, midrail, and toeboard

Working Surfaces and Potential Hazards

The primary hazards associated with surface preparation and working surfaces are:

  • Falls to solid surfaces.
  • Falls into water.
  • Falls due to limited visibility.

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • When trip hazards are present, provide temporary decking to ensure safe walking and working surfaces.
    Photo of temporary decking

    Photo of temporary decking

    Photo of poor temporary decking

  • When work is being performed more than 5 feet above solid surfaces (29 CFR 1915.77(c)):
    • Ensure scaffolds or sloping ladders are used to allow for safe footing.
    • Have workers wear safety harnesses with lanyards.
      Photo of work platform

      Photo of work platform

      Illustration of work platform

  • Photo of bad housekeeping

  • When working in restricted areas such as behind boilers, or in between congested machinery units and piping, make sure adequate work platforms – at least 20 inches wide -are used (29 CFR 1915.77(d)).
  • Personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required when there is a chance of falling into the water; for example, when working near unguarded edges, boarding or leaving small boats, or working on floats (29 CFR 1915.73(e), 29 CFR 1915.77(e), 29 CFR 1915.71(j)(3), and 29 CFR 1915.158(a)).
  • Good housekeeping must be maintained at all times (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(1)).
  • Photo of lifesaving equipment

  • Good housekeeping must be maintained at all times (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(1)).
  • Lifesaving equipment, such as life ring buoys with ropes and ladders, must be provided when working from vessels (29 CFR 1915.158(b)).




F-35, F-36, F-37

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