Is Your Facility Ready For The Updated OSHA Ladder Rules?

On January 17, 2017, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated their Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection standards. While most of the changes to the rule have already been put into effect, several provisions have delayed effective dates, many of which are coming up soon. Is your facility ready to comply with these new rule changes?

One of the biggest changes that OSHA has made to their Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection standards is the requirement for installing personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems on newly fixed ladders that are higher than 24 feet. These requirements go into effect on November 19, 2018. Under the previous rule, all ladders that were 20-feet or higher were required to be equipped with a cage that surrounded the ladder. The new update raised the ladder height requirement to 24 feet in order to align with construction standards, and no longer allows for the use of cages on newly-installed ladders. Instead, OSHA is requiring the use of personal fall arrest or safety systems when ascending or descending a fixed industrial ladder.

OSHA research has determined that ladder cages were ineffective in preventing fall hazards, so new ladders must be equipped with personal fall arrest systems or ladder safety systems. Additionally, any sections of existing ladders that are modified or repaired after this effective date must also be equipped with personal fall arrest systems or ladder safety systems.

A personal fall arrest system for a ladder typically involves the use of a center rail or lifeline that travels up the height of the ladder with an anchorage point that employees can clip their fall harness to. The anchorage point freely travels up the center rail or lifeline as the employee climbs the ladder, but immediately locks in the event of a fall. See the example below. While cages are currently allowed for existing ladders, it is important to realize that OSHA plans on phasing them out. By November 19, 2036, all ladder cages and wells used on ladders over 24 feet must be replaced with personal fall protection systems or ladder safety systems.

If your facility has plans to install new ladders after the effective date of November 19, 2018, it is important to ensure that you are complying with the new rule. All new ladders installed on or after this effective date that have a height greater than 24 feet must be equipped with a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system. Ladder cages are no longer permitted. Along with installing these ladder safety systems, it is also important that you train your employees on the potential fall hazards while climbing ladders, and how to properly use the fall arrest systems or ladder safety systems used at your facility. If you have any questions about these new requirements to OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards, please feel free to contact us at (770) 263-6330, or by email at

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