- Standard Number:
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.
September 10, 2021
Mr. Caleb Thompson
ERI Solutions Inc.
125 N. First Street
Colwich, Kansas 67030
Dear Mr. Thompson:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), requesting clarification of the fall protection requirements for fixed ladders under OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces standard. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation only of the requirements herein, and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated in your original correspondence. Your paraphrased questions, and our responses are as follows:
Question 1: 29 CFR § 1910.28(b)(9) requires fixed ladders (installed on or after November 19, 2018) that are more than 24 feet above the lower level, to be equipped with a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system. If the fixed ladder is 24 feet or less, does a safety system (personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system) still need to be in place, as employers are still responsible to provide fall protection when employees are exposed to fall hazards of 4 feet or more?
Response: Fixed ladders 24 feet or less in height above the ground level are not required to be equipped with personal fall arrest systems or ladder safety systems. However, if a ladder 24 feet or less in height is accessed from a platform at an elevated location and the employees can fall past the platform to a lower level1 with a fall hazard greater than 24 feet, the ladder must be equipped with a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system.
Question 2: If a fixed ladder is 24 feet or less and requires a fall protection system, can a cage be used as a fall protection system?
Response: As stated in the response to question 1, fixed ladders that are 24 feet or less are not required to be equipped with a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system, if the length of a fall to a lower level is 24 feet or less. However, if a ladder 24 feet or less in height is accessed from a platform at an elevated location and the employees can fall past the platform to a lower level, with a fall hazard greater than 24 feet, a cage can be used on that ladder to direct the employee to land on the platform and to limit the fall distance to 24 feet or less.
Question 3: Would simply maintaining 3 points of contact suffice for fixed ladders below 24 feet in height?
Response: Regardless of ladder height, 29 CFR § 1910.23(b)(12) requires that each employee use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when climbing up and down it. Additionally, 29 CFR § 1910.23(b)(13) requires that no employee carries any object or load that could cause the employee to lose balance and fall while climbing up or down the ladder.
Question 4: If a fixed ladder goes up 20 feet to a platform and then goes to another fixed ladder that is an additional 20 feet, would that then count as a combined 40 foot fixed ladder and need a safety system?
Response: Yes. As stated previously, if the ladder is not equipped with a cage, and the employee could fall past a transitional platform to a lower level, and the fall would be greater than 24 feet, a ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system would be required. That being said, there are no requirements for a fall arrest system or ladder safety system for offset fixed ladders 24 feet and under in height so long as the ladder resting platforms at all transitions are of minimum horizontal dimensions (29 CFR § 1910.29(g)(4)), have an acceptable guardrail system (29 CFR § 1910.29(b)), and contain a ladder cage that directs the employee onto the platform in the event of a fall (29 CFR § 1910.29(g)(3)).
Question 5: If the above is not considered a combined 40 feet in height ladder, is it then considered two 20 foot fixed ladders not requiring a personal fall arrest or ladder safety system?
Response: Please see above response to Question #4.
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, such letters may be 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 questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100.
Kimberly Stille, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
 The lower level is defined as a surface or area to which workers could fall. Examples of lower levels include, but are not limited to: ground levels, floors, roofs, ramps, runways, excavations, pits, tanks, materials, water, equipment, and similar surfaces and structures, or portions thereof.