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.

June 18, 1993

Mr. Richard O. Johnson
Communications Workers of
America, Local 7200
3521 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406

Dear Mr. Johnson:

This is in response to your letters of May 3 and May 11 requesting an interpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards addressing the capacity of portable ladders. I apologize for this delay in responding to your inquiry.

As you know, OSHA requires extra-heavy duty type 1A metal or plastic ladders to be able to support at least 3.3 times the intended load. With regard to modifying a ladder to accommodate loads in excess of the manufacturer's rated capacity (e.g. by the installation of Safe-T-Legs), please be advised that OSHA would consider modified ladders to be in compliance with this requirement if a registered professional engineer has certified that the ladder, as modified, meets OSHA's 3.3 to 1 strength to intended load ratio requirement and the ladder is used in accordance with the certification.

Accordingly, OSHA would consider extra-heavy duty type 1A ladders equipped with Safe-T-Legs, as specified in the certified test results enclosed in your letter, to have a capacity of 360 pounds when the legs are properly installed. However, nothing in this letter should be interpreted to be an approval nor endorsement per se of the Safe-T-Legs product. The variable working conditions at jobsites and possible alterations or misapplication of an otherwise safe product could easily create a hazardous condition beyond the control of the manufacturer.

If we can be of any further assistance, please contact me or Mr. Dale Cavanaugh of my staff at (202) 219-8136.


Roy F. Gurnham, P.E., Esq.
Office of Construction and Maritime
Compliance Assistance

May 3, 1993

Mr. Dale Cavanaugh
Federal O.S.H.A.
200 Constitution Avenue N.W.
Room N 3610
Washington D.C. 20210

Dear Mr. Cavanaugh:

Please find enclosed documentation related to testing results to exceed the 300 pound weight limitation on ladders.

I would like to know if it is possible to receive a permanent variance to the weight limitations now placed on ladders at the federal level such as we have with Minnesota state O.S.H.A. (This request only applies to ladders tested and certified to exceed 300 pounds.)

I would call your attention specifically to the letter dated March 26, 1993 from Saf-T-Ladder to Dick Johnson and the letter dated March 24, 1993 from Environ Laboratories to Saf-T-Ladder.

The need for a variance and ladders to have a weight capacity in excess of 300 pounds in prompted by our employer, U S West, to enforce the weight limits as enforced by states and federal O.S.H.A.

Our urgency in this is that within six months an undetermined number of members with the Communications Workers of American union will lose their employment with U S West if they continue to exceed the current weight restrictions.

If you need further information I can be reached at Area Code 612-722-7200.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Richard O. Johnson, President
CWA Local 7200


April 22, 1993

Mr. Joe Supplee
Saf-T-Ladders, Inc.
10740 Lyndale Avenue S.
Bloomington, MN 55420

Mr. Dick Johnson
Communication Workers of America
3521 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55405

Dear Mr. Supplee and Mr. Johnson:

This is to inform you that I have sent your information on the Saf-T-Ladders, consistent with our discussion of April 5, 1993, to the Assistant Commissioner, Nancy Christensen, and a copy to the OSHA Management Team. Based on the information that I transmitted to them, the next step is to request a permanent variance in compliance with Minnesota Rule 5210.0830. I have attached a copy of that rule for your information. The variance request has to be made by Mr. Johnson, the user of the equipment.

Please direct your request for a variance application to Mr. Luther Jones, OMT Director. His mailing address is Department of Labor and Industry, OSHA Compliance Division, 443 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155. If additional clarification is need on the application process, feel free to contact Mr. Jones at 296-8266.


James Collins, Director
Workplace Safety Consultation Division

April 20, 1993

Nancy Christensen, Assistant Commissioner
Workplace Services Division
443 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155

Dear Assistant Commissioner Christensen:

Mr. R. O. "Dick" Johnson, President of Communication Workers of America, Local 7200, and Mr. Joe Supplee, Representative of SAF-T-Ladders, Inc., met with Richard D. Schilling, Consultation Analyst, and myself on April 4, 1993, to review their documentation for a variance on the SAF-T-Ladders that Mr. Johnson is contemplating purchasing for his union members. Mr. Johnson informed us that he spoke with Commissioner John B. Lennes on this issue, and that he referred him to discuss the issue with Workplace Safety Consultation. Luther Jones, OMT Director, also referred him to discuss the same issue with us.

Our discussion focussed on their documentation for an acceptably safe ladder able to accommodate a person weighing more than 300 pounds. We also discussed the OSHA requirement set forth in 29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(1)(i), which essentially talks about the rated load safety factor of 3.3. Mr. Supplee explained that the equipment had been tested by Environ Laboratories, Inc., as documented by the attached letter dated March 24, 1993. Their test results exceeded the 3.3 safety factor mentioned above.

After Richard D. Schilling carefully reviewed the attached documentation, he recommended that a variance be granted by MN OSHA. If you need additional information of if you need further clarification of any portions of the attached documentation, please feel free to contact Mr. Richard Schilling at 297-2397.


James Collins, Director
Workplace Safety Consultation