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 17, 2019

Mr. Tyler Huckaby, P.E.
Structural Engineer
Quality Execution, Inc.
1511 Main Street
Mt. Vernon, Indiana 47620

Dear Mr. Huckaby:

Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs requesting clarification on the new walking-working surface provisions within 29 CFR 1910.28 and the usage of fall protection for fixed ladders. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. The scenario and questions you provided, and OSHA’s responses are below.

Scenario: In an industrial setting, a ladder starts 100 feet above grade on the side of a tower. The base landing of the ladder is only there for ladder access, so it meets OSHA minimum dimensions and is equipped with standard guardrail. The length of climb above this base is no more than 24 feet.

Question 1: What are the requirements for this elevated ladder with regard to falls? Does this scenario require a personal fall arrest or ladder safety system?

Response: For fixed ladders that extend more than 24 feet (7.3 m) above a lower level, 29 CFR 1910.28(b)(9)(i) requires that each fixed ladder installed before November 19, 2018, is equipped with a personal fall arrest system, ladder safety system, cage or well, and each fixed ladder installed after this date is equipped with a personal fall arrest system or a ladder safety system. Installation of a personal fall arrest or ladder safety system is determined by the height the ladder extends above the ground/lower level and the distance a worker on the ladder could fall, not the length of a particular ladder or a ladder section. In the scenario you provided, although the length of the climb above the base does not exceed 24 feet, the worker could fall more than 24 feet. Therefore, the fixed ladder would require a personal fall arrest or ladder safety system, if the ladder was installed on or after November 19, 2018.

Question 2: Is a ladder cage still an allowed alternative due to the length of the climb?

Response: Yes. In accordance with 1910.28(b)(9)(i)(A), a cage is still permissible for existing fixed ladders erected before November 19, 2018. Employers may use fixed ladders with cages or wells up until the time a cage, well, or any ladder section requires replacement, at which time a ladder safety or personal fall arrest system must be installed in accordance with 1910.28(b)(9)(i)(C), or until November 19, 2036, when all fixed ladders must have a personal fall arrest or ladder safety system as required by 1910.28(b)(9)(i)(D).

Cages are not permissible as a means of fall protection for new fixed ladders erected on or after November 19, 2018, as a personal fall arrest or a ladder safety system must be installed in accordance with 1910.28(b)(9)(i)(B).

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100.

Sincerely,

 

Patrick J. Kapust, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs