Examining OSHA’s Ladder Standard

Date Posted
Mike Rich

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the most frequently cited violations for the year to a crowd of safety and health professionals at the National Safety Council Congress and Expo in Orlando.

To help your company ensure compliance we will examine one of the top five violations each week and offer $50 off a training program for that violation.

This week we examine the ladder and stairways standard, 1926.1053. To take advantage of the $50 coupon call 877-397-9450.

In 1990 OSHA created the ladder standard revising and relocating the existing provisions for stairways and ladders from Subpart L – Ladders and Scaffolds and Subpart M – Floors and Wall Openings, and Stairways.

Since its creation the standard has constantly ranked in the top 10 for OSHA violations costing employers on average $430 per citation.

In general 1926.1053 provides information of usage, maintenance, administrative controls and more.

The following rules apply to all ladders under the standard:

  • Maintain ladders free of oil, grease and slipping hazards.
  • Do not load ladders beyond their maximum intended load nor beyond their manufacturer’s rated capacity.
  • Use Ladders only for their intended purpose.
  • Use ladders only on stable and level surfaces unless secured to prevent accidental movement.
  • Do not use ladders on slippery surfaces unless secured or provided with slip-resistant feet to prevent accidental movement. Do not use slip- resistant feet as a substitute for exercising care when placing, lashing, or holding a ladder upon a slippery surface.
  • Secure ladders placed in areas such as passageways, doorways, or driveways or where they can be displaced by workplace activities or traffic to prevent accidental movement. Or use a barricade to keep traffic away from the ladder.
  • Keep areas clear around the top and bottom of ladders.
  • Do not move, shift or extend ladders while in use.
  • Use ladders equipped with nonconductive side rails if the worker or ladder could contact exposed energized electrical equipment.
  • Face the ladder when moving up or down.
  • Use at least one hand to grasp the ladder when climbing.
  • Do not carry objects or loads that could cause loss of balance and falling.
  • Ladder rungs, cleats and steps must be parallel, level and uniformly spaced when ladder is in position for use.
  • Rugs, cleats and steps of portable and fixed ladders (see exceptions below) must not be spaced less than 10 inches apart (25 cm), nor more than 12 inches (31 cm) apart, between centerlines of the rungs, cleats and steps.
  • Rungs, cleats and steps at the base section of extension trestle ladders must not be less than 8 inches (20cm) nor more than 18 inches (46 cm) apart, between center lines of rungs, cleats and steps.  The rung spacing on the extension section must not be less than 6 inches (15 cm) or more than 12 inches (31 cm).
  • Rungs, cleats and steps of step stools must not be less than 8 inches apart (20 cm), nor more than 12 inches (31 cm) apart between the center lines of the rungs, cleats and steps.
  • Ladders must not be tied or fastened together to create longer sections unless they are specifically designed for such use.
  • When splicing side rails, the resulting side rail must be equivalent in strength to a one-piece side rail made of the same material.
  • Two or more separate ladders used to reach an elevated work area must be offset with a platform or landing between the ladders, except when portable ladders are used to gain access to fix ladders.
  • Ladder components must be surfaced to prevent snagging of clothing and injury from puncture or lacerations.
  • Wood ladders must not be coated with any opaque covering except for identification or warning labels, which may be placed only on one face of a side rail.

The following rules apply to all stairways under the standard:

  • Stairways that will not be a permanent part of the building under construction must have landings at least 30 inches deep and 22 inches wide (76 x 56 cm) at every  12 feet (3.7 m) or less of vertical rise.
  • Stairways must be installed at least 30 degrees – and no more than 50 degrees – from the horizontal.
  • Variations in riser height or stair tread depth must not exceed ¼ inch in any stairway system, including any foundation structure used as one or more treads of the stairs.
  • Doors and gates opening directly onto a stairway must have a platform that extends at least 20 inches (51 cm) beyond the swing of the door or gate.
  • Metal pan landings and metal pan treads must be secured in place before filling.
  • Stairway parts must be free of dangerous projections such as protruding nails.
  • Slippery conditions on stairways must be corrected.
  • Worker must not use a spiral stairway that will not be part of the permanent structure.

For more information on compliance with OSHA’s ladder and stairway standard call 877-397-9450.


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