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 http://www.osha.gov.

May 3, 2004

John G. Thompson
2305 Grouper Drive
Marathon, FL 33050

Dear Mr. Thompson:

This is in response to your letters of March 29, March 31, and April 5, 2004, to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Mr. Terry Smith of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You requested that OSHA require the upper rails of ladders used in construction to be outfitted with slip-resistant material to prevent accidental displacement. Specifically, you ask that OSHA interpret 29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(7) to require that the upper rails of non-self-supporting ladders have slip-resistant strips and end caps when used on slippery surfaces.

Section 29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(7) states:

Ladders shall not be used on slippery surfaces unless secured or provided with slip-resistant feet to prevent accidental displacement. Slip-resistant feet shall not be used as a substitute for care in placing, lashing, or holding a ladder that is used upon slippery surfaces including, but not limited to, flat metal or concrete surfaces that are constructed so they cannot be prevented from becoming slippery. [Emphasis added.]

We do not believe that the language of this provision permits the interpretation that you request. The provision requires slip-resistant "feet." The plain meaning of this term, which accords with the common understanding of the term in the construction industry, is the surface (or pads) at the bottom rails of the ladder that form the ladder's base.

Adding a requirement to use slip-resistant upper rails or upper rail ends to this standard could only be done through the rulemaking process. Thus, we will consider the issue of ladder safety in construction along with your specific proposal regarding slip-resistant railing strips and end caps when we set our regulatory agenda.

We appreciate your concern about ladder safety and your efforts to reduce worker accidents.

Sincerely,


John L. Henshaw
Assistant Secretary