Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

June 11, 1998

Mr. Patrick McCormack
10417 Deerfoot Lane North
Jacksonville, Florida 32257-1052

Dear Mr. McCormack:

Thank you for your email dated January 29, to President Clinton, in which you described the possible discrimination incurred by certain persons in connection with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards on ladders. Your e-mail was forwarded to us from the White House to answer.

On March 18, you mentioned to Helen Rogers of my staff that your main concern was that employers when purchasing ladders may only focus on the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rating of the ladder. Since ANSI only rates ladders at a maximum of 300 pounds, you fear that employers will discriminate, either intentionally or inadvertently, against people who with the addition of their equipment exceed 300 pounds. You stated you are not talking about people who are obese, but rather people who are just larger than normal. You also asked that OSHA inform employers that they may be inadvertently discriminating against large people if they only focus on an ANSI rating sticker.

Nothing in the OSHA portable ladder standards (29 CFR 1910.25 and .26) prohibits the use of portable ladders rated or warranted for more than 300 pounds. OSHA standards are not intended to restrict the use of job-made portable ladders that would safely support work loads in excess of 300 pounds as the maximum capacity. Employers are certainly free to build or purchase ladders that have a greater than 300 pound capacity.

The most recent ANSI A14.1 and A14.2 standards only rate and have test procedures for 300 pound rated ladders. A new ANSI portable ladder standard for 375 pound rated ladders should be out later this year. The source standards for OSHA's portable ladder standards (§1910.25 and §1910.26) are, however, ANSI A14.1-1968 and A14.2-1956, respectively. Any ladders designed in accordance with these previous ANSI standards are deemed to be in compliance with the OSHA standards.

Although ANSI has updated its standards since the 1968 and 1956 editions, OSHA has not. However, on April 10, 1990, OSHA published in the Federal Register, Vol. 55, No. 69, at 13360, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which proposes amending OSHA's standards for walking and working surfaces and personal protective equipment. OSHA's ladder standards, including 1910.25 and 1910.26, would be replaced by the new proposed standard §1910.23. A copy of the proposed ladder standard is enclosed.

Section 1910.23(c) of the proposed ladder standard reads as follows:

(c) Design, construction, maintenance and inspection.

(1) Portable ladders shall be capable of supporting without ultimate failure, the following loads:

(i) Each non-self-supporting ladder: At least four times the maximum intended load applied or transmitted to the ladder in a downward and vertical direction when the ladder is placed at a 75 1/2 degree angle from the horizontal.

(ii) Each self-supporting ladder: At least four times the maximum intended load in a fully opened position on a level surface.

This proposed OSHA standard more clearly addresses your concern, since it sets forth the design and construction specifications for all ladders. Although OSHA has not yet finalized this standard, any employer who complies with this proposed standard would not be cited for a violation of the current standard.

We will be informing employers of the content of this letter by placing this letter on the Internet with other OSHA standard interpretation letters. The OSHA website may be accessed at

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health.



John B. Miles, Jr., Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[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.]