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.

October 5, 2004

Mr. Jess R. Richter
Director of Technical Services
Tankinetics, Inc.
230 Industrial Park Road
P.O. Box 1195
Harrison, AR 72602

Dear Mr. Richter:

Thank you for your May 27, 2004 letter regarding the application of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule at 29 CFR §1910.27 -- Fixed Ladders, to cylindrical fiberglass towers/vessels that your company manufactures. In your letter you indicated that these vessels are used in a multitude of liquid storage and process applications and are commonly greater than 30 feet in height and often equipped with a variety of ladders, platforms, and handrails. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased questions and our responses are provided below.

Question 1: Does §1910.27(d)(5) apply to the structures described above?

Response: Yes. 29 CFR §1910.27(d)(5), Ladder Safety Devices, states in part, "Ladder safety devices may be used on tower, water tank, and chimney ladders over 20 feet in unbroken length in lieu of cage protection." Since the towers you manufacture are normally greater than 30 feet in height, the provisions under §1910.27(d)(5) could apply.

Question 2: Are safety cages or other suitable sliding fall protection devices required on tower ladders less than 20 feet in height?

Response: No.

Question 3: Are safety cages or other suitable sliding fall protection devices required (under the current OSHA standards) on tower ladders 20 or more feet in length?

Response: Yes. The current OSHA standard, 29 CFR §1910.27(d)(1)(ii), requires that safety cages or wells shall be provided on ladders of more than 20 feet to a maximum unbroken length of 30 feet.

However, the source document for 29 CFR §1910.27, ANSI A14.3-1956, Safety Code for Fixed Ladders, has been revised several times since its adoption by OSHA in 1971, and its most current version, ANSI A14.3-2002, "American National Standard for Ladders -- Fixed -- Safety Requirements," allows fixed ladder usage without cages or wells for a ladder length of up to 24 feet. In addition, on May 2, 2003, OSHA reopened its Proposed Rule for Walking and Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment, see 68 Federal Register 23528. This proposed rule would amend §1910.27(d)(1)(ii) to reflect the current ANSI standard of 24 feet.

If an employer is not in compliance with the requirements of an OSHA standard but is complying with the requirements of a proposed OSHA standard or a current consensus standard that clearly provides equal or greater employee protection, the violation of OSHA's requirement will be treated as a de minimis violation. De minimis violations are those having no direct or immediate relationship to safety and health and result in no citation, penalty, or requirement to abate.

Question 4: Are safety cages required on tower ladders when suitable sliding fall protection devices are provided?

Response: No.

Question 5: Are rest platforms required (under the current OSHA standards) on tower ladders, 30 or more feet in length, that are equipped with safety cages?

Response: Yes. The current OSHA standard at §1910.27(d)(2) establishes a maximum limit of 30 feet between platforms; therefore, ladder distances in excess of 30 feet without an intermittent platform would not be in compliance with the standard. However, the current ANSI A14.3-2002 standard provides that landing platforms are not required on fixed ladders with cages less than 50 feet in length; for fixed ladders with cages extending a maximum unbroken length of 50 feet, landing platforms are required at 50-foot intervals. In addition, the proposed OSHA ladder standard at §1910.23 allows for landingplatforms to be installed at 50-foot intervals instead of the existing 30-foot interval for fixed ladders with cages which is mandated by the current §1910.27. OSHA would regard compliance with the proposed requirement that landing platforms be installed at 50-foot intervals as a de minimis violation of the OSHA standard for fixed ladders with cages.

Question 6: Are rest platforms required under the current OSHA standards on tower ladders, 30 or more feet in length, equipped with suitable sliding fall protection devices?

Response: No. When ladder safety devices are used with fixed ladders on tower ladders, platforms are not required.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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. If you need further assistance, please contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.

Sincerely,


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs