OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

October 19, 1976

Honorable William A. Steiger
House of Representatives
Washington, D. C. 20515

Dear Congressman Steiger:

This is in response to your letter of August 30, 1976, which transmitted a letter dated August 6, 1976, from Mr. Jay Tennison, Executive Vice President, Swager Tower Corporation, Fremont, Indiana, regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) enforcement of 29 CFR 1910.27 Fixed Ladders.

Your request for information on a few of Mr. Tennison's comments is answered in the same order as presented.



  1. Would you provide me with information on what OSHA is doing to upgrade the compliance staff?

    Regardless of prior experience, each new Compliance Officer takes a four-week course on OSHA standards and the hazards they cover. Before conducting inspections on their own, they get additional on-the-job training at OSHA Regional or Area Offices.

    At least once a year, each new Compliance Officer takes additional training in specialized fields.

    Formal training is conducted at OSHA's Training Institute at [Arlington Heights, Illinois].

    In addition, there is a continuing upgrading of the compliance staff at the Area Office level through the Area Director's training programs.

  3. Comment, if you can, on his statement from page two: "The 1910.27 standard was written around cages to climb through, although they did indicate that a safety climbing system could be used in lieu of a cage."

    Under authority of Section 6(a) of the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the National Consensus Standard, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A14.3-1956 Safety Code for Fixed Ladders was the source standard for 29 CFR 1910.27 Fixed Ladders.

    29 CFR 1910.27(d)(1)(ii) states:
    Cages or wells (except as provided in subparagraph (5) of this paragraph) conforming to the dimensions shown in figures D-7, D-8, and D-9 shall be provided on ladders of more than 20 feet to a maximum unbroken length of 30 feet.
    29 CFR 1910.27(d)(5) Ladder Safety Devices states:
    Ladder safety devices may be used on tower, water tank, and chimney ladders over 20 feet in unbroken length in lieu of cage protection. No landing platform is required in these cases. All ladder safety devices such as those that incorporate lifebelts, friction brakes, and sliding attachments shall meet the design requirements of the ladders which they serve.
  4. If possible, can you tell me what level of inspection emphasis the standard in question has received in the past and the level of emphasis it is receiving during the standard review process?

    The inspection emphasis of 29 CFR 1910.27 Fixed Ladders has not changed over the years.

    Fixed Ladders are inspected when found during OSHA inspections. An indication of this may be found in the standards cited nationally in order of frequency for Fiscal Year 1975. 29 CFR 1910.27(d)(1) Fixed Ladders, Cages or Wells, was cited 238 times, with 14 of these of a serious nature. The standard standing was in the top five percent in order of frequency.

  6. Will you verify for me the statements made on pages 7 and 8 regarding statistics on fatalities due to falls from high structures and OSHA's attempts to find hard figures for accidents and deaths in this area.

    With respect to specific data on ladder-related accidents, OSHA regulation [29 CFR 1904.39, "Reporting fatalities and multiple hospitalization incidents to OSHA"], requires the employer to report an accident that is fatal to one or more employees or which results in the hospitalization of [three] or more employees. Consequently, unless [three] or more employees were hospitalized or a fatality resulted, or both, from a ladder related accident, the accident would not be reported to OSHA. As ladder related accidents are seldom of this magnitude, meaningful statistics are unavailable. We have sought assistance from the insurance industry in this matter and, to date, have been unable to secure such data. I suspect that the situation regarding insurance data may be similar to the one encountered in reviewing accident statistics from Florida. We found that statistics on falls were broken out as far as falls from ladders, but unfortunately, the data did not specify whether the falls were from portable ladders or fixed ladders. While this distinction may appear to be a subtle one, it is significant. The statistics are just not broken down to the point that we can draw meaningful, relevant conclusions.

    [This document was edited on 3/5/2004. Please see the revised Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Standard, 1904 on OSHA's Recordkeeping Page.]

    Mr. Tennison refers to a figure of approximately 956 fatalities annually due to falls from high structures. OSHA recognizes that falls are a major contributor to occupational accidents, but only those accidents due to falls from fixed ladders are relevant to our deliberations on Section 1910.27. It was for this purpose, that my Deputy, Mr. Bert M. Concklin, asked Mr. Tennison to provide the sources or documentation as to the data he cited. As you are aware, Section 6(b) of the Act (derived from the Administrative Procedures Act) requires that our rulemakings be based on substantial evidence. The attribution of any base motives to Deputy Assistant Secretary Concklin's inquiry is in error and completely false.

OSHA has been in direct contact with Swager Tower Corporation and its representatives for over two years and it is indeed unfortunate that the present misunderstanding has not yet been resolved. You may be confident, however, that we will continue to enforce the fixed ladder standard.

Hopefully, this information should be helpful. If I may be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.


Morton Corn
Assistant Secretary of Labor

[Corrected 3/5/2004]