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Are Fixed Ladders Really Any Safer Than Portable Ladders?

Fixed ladders, indoors or outdoors, often allow easier access for inspection and maintenance work. While fixed ladders may seem safer in a work environment than portable ladders, there are still many safety issues that must be considered.

A fixed ladder.

Visually inspect all fixed ladders before use for any defects. Any fixed ladder that is found to have structural (or other) defects must immediately be tagged “Dangerous: Do Not Use” and removed from service until the ladder can be repaired or replaced.

OSHA Standard 1910.23(b)(9) states that the employer must ensure Ladders are inspected before initial use in each work shift, and more frequently as necessary, to identify any visible defects that could cause employee injury.
  • Fixed wooden ladders may not be coated with any material that could obscure structural defects.
  • During the ladder inspection, ensure that there is nothing on the rungs that could cause a slipping hazard.
  • Fixed ladder surfaces should be inspected to ensure there are no puncture or laceration hazards like protruding screws or nails.
OSHA Standard 1910.23(b)(6) states that the employer must ensure Metal ladders are made with corrosion-resistant material or protected against corrosion.

Fall protection may need to be provided for workers that use fixed ladders.  OSHA Regulations were updated in January 2017.

  • Fixed ladders that exceed 24 feet must be equipped with a personal fall arrest system, ladder safety system, cage or well.
  • IMPORTANT: All fixed ladders installed on or after Nov. 19, 2018 must be equipped with a personal fall arrest system or a ladder safety system.
  • OSHA Standard 1910.28(b)(9) provides clarification on required fall protection for fixed ladders.
Worker wearing personal fall arrest system starting to climb up a fixed ladder.
  • Maintain three points of contact when climbing a fixed ladder. Two hands/one foot or two feet/one hand.
  • Do not over-extend yourself to either side of the fixed ladder; this can cause you to lose balance.
  • Do not carry any load when climbing a fixed ladder that could cause you to lose balance.
  • Always face the fixed ladder when climbing up or down.
  • Reminder! Keep the area around the top and bottom of the ladder clear.
  • Before climbing a fixed ladder, make sure there is nothing slippery on the rungs, steps or feet.
  • Do not use a fixed ladder that has a pitch greater than 90 degrees from the horizontal.
OSHA Standard 1910.23(b)(11) states that the employer must ensure Each employee faces the ladder when climbing up or down it; and (12) each employee uses at least one hand to grasp the ladder when climbing up and down it.
Engineer climbing up a fixed ladder.

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