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.

November 17, 2003

John Schuler Construction
4726 Knollwood Court
Oceanside, CA 92056

Re: OSHA requirements for attachable scaffold ladders used in construction - §1926.451(e); fall protection; toe-hold clearance.

Dear Mr. Schuler:

This is in response to your letter postmarked January 4, 2003, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You ask about requirements in the construction scaffold standard, 29 CFR 1926.451(e), regarding attachable ladders. We apologize for the delay in responding.

We have paraphrased your questions as follows:

Question (1): What OSHA construction scaffold requirements apply to attachable (bolt-on) scaffold ladders? Is fall protection required for workers as they climb up or down these ladders?

In 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart L (Scaffolds), §1926.451(e)(2) details the requirements for use of "portable, hook-on and attachable ladders..."
1 Section 1926.451(e)(2) requires that:

(i) Portable, hook-on and attachable ladders shall be positioned so as not to tip the scaffold;

(ii) Hook-on and attachable ladders shall be positioned so that their bottom rung is not more than 24 inches (61 cm) above the scaffold supporting level;

(iii) When hook-on and attachable ladders are used on a supported scaffold more than 35 feet (10.7 m) high, they shall have rest platforms at 35-foot (10.7 m) maximum vertical intervals.

(iv) Hook-on and attachable ladders shall be specifically designed for use with the type of scaffold used

(v) Hook-on and attachable ladders shall have a minimum rung length of 11 1/2 inches (29 cm); and

(vi) Hook-on and attachable ladders shall have uniformly spaced rungs with a maximum spacing between rungs of 16 3/4 inches.

As you can see from §1926.451(e)(2)(iii), when attachable ladders are used on supported scaffolds more than 35 feet high, they must have rest platforms at no more than 35-foot intervals. There is no requirement in the standard that workers use fall protection while climbing up or down these ladders.

Question 2: Is there a toe-hold minimum distance requirement for attachable ladders used on supported scaffolds?

The scaffold standard is silent about toe-hold clearance distances for attachable ladders used on supported scaffolds. However, under the "General Duty Clause" (Section 5(a)(1)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers must "furnish to each of [its] employees employment...free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm...." It is recognized in the industry that there must be sufficient toe-hold clearance on ladder steps to enable the workers to safely use the rungs.

If you need any further clarification on this subject, please contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor - OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance 202-693-1689. You can also contact us by mail at the above office, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20210; although, there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.

Sincerely yours,

Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction



1 This section incorporates Part 1926 Subpart X by reference in the case of portable ladders. [ back to text ]





2 Seven inches of clearance is agenerally recognized minimum; see, for example, the American National Standards Institute standard A14.3-2002, section, which calls for 7 inches of clearance behind ladders. Note also that in §1926.1053(a)(13), the shortest clear distance permitted behind a fixed ladder is 7 inches (except for an elevator pit ladder, in which case it is 4.5 inches). [ back to text ]