• Standard Number:

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.

August 20, 1982

Mr. Edward H. Feege
Hayes and Feege, P.C.
Attorneys at Law
2851 W. Emaus Avenue
Allentown, PA 18103

Representing: Silberline Manufacturing Company, Inc.

Dear Mr. Feege:

Assistant Secretary Thorne G. Auchter has asked me to respond to your letter dated July 23, 1982 requesting a permanent variance from Section 1910.24(e) - Fixed Industrial Stairs, Angle of Stairway Rise, of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards.

The fixed stairways you referenced in your application are at angles of approximately 67° rather than the 30° to 50° required by Section 1910.24(e). Your stairways would be classified as ship's ladders.

The present Subpart D - Walking-Working Surfaces standard does not recognize ship's ladders. However, a proposed revision published in the Federal Register on September 6, 1973, recognized the use of a ship's ladder in restricted spaces in which a fixed industrial stairway cannot be fitted.

Unfortunately, the proposed revision of Subpart D was withdrawn by the new procedure published in the Federal Register on April 23, 1976. This publication does not address the subject of utilizing a ship's ladder in those instances where due to restricted space, the use of a standard industrial stairway is not feasible. However, a forthcoming proposal to modify this standard will contain this requirement.

Pending the modification of Subpart D the enforcement of the requirements of existing standards will continue. In those instances where ship's ladders meet the criteria contained in the proposed revision to Subpart D, dated September 6, 1973, and do not adversely affect the safety of the employees, their use may be considered a de minimis violation. A de minimis violation carries no penalty and does not require abatement.

It would appear from the information you have supplied that the subject ship's ladders being used at your workplace would meet the de minimis criteria delineated above. Therefore, a variance from Section 1910.24(e) would not be required. The Wilkes-Barre Area Director concurs with our decision on your variance application. Affected employees and their authorized representatives shall be advised of this clarification in the same manner they were informed of your application for a variance.

No further action will be taken on your request for a variance. If I can be of further assistance please contact [the Directorate of Science, Technology and Medicine at 202 693-2300.


James J. Concannon, Director
[Directorate of Science, Technology and Medicine]

[Corrected 4/4/2005.

Note: On April 10, 1990 OSHA published proposed revisions to Walking and Working Surfaces; Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems); Notices of Proposed Rulemaking; Slips; Falls;Trips in
Federal Register 55:13360-13441. It is available electronically only as an abstract. On May 2, 2003 OSHA reopened the rulemaking record on the proposed revisions to Walking and Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems). It was re-published in its entirety in Federal Register 68:23527-23568 and is available electronically.]