What Every Roofer Should Know About Ladder and Fall Protection Safety

Fall protection equipment should be inspected by the user before every use.

Roofing can be a dangerous profession, even in optimal weather and working conditions. Working at high elevations, on steep slopes and near unprotected edges are routine in the work life of a professional roofer. Alone, these situations can pose significant risk to the health and safety of roofers. Combined with the common environmental factors of windy weather and rain-slicked surfaces, the job can go from risky to outright dangerous on any given day.

What’s more, roofers face another risk every day on the job — injuries relating to ladder use or falls. Since 2017, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has closed more than 90 Federal and State investigations into workplace fatalities relating to ladder use on jobsites across the country, and many of these fatalities result from falls. The American Ladder Institute (ALI) reports that more than 300 ladder deaths occur every year, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 697 fatal falls from a higher level to a lower level in 2016.

All roofers know that ladder safety is important, yet many lack the training and education needed to safely maintain their climbing equipment. It’s essential that professionals understand that in addition to proper ladder use, they must also learn how to inspect a ladder for optimal safety. Education is the most important factor in improving jobsite safety and saving lives.

The Importance of Ladder Safety Training

The first step in ensuring that roofing professionals utilize ladders safely and effectively on the jobsite is to provide training on the essential components of ladder use. In fact, ALI notes that 76 percent of companies believe ladder accidents that occurred in their workplace could have been avoided with ladder safety training. When roofers feel confident in climbing and working on a ladder, they can protect themselves and promote a culture of safety among other professionals.

Figure 1. A ladder inspection form such as this one should be accessible on the worksite.

Ladder safety training sessions can either be conducted online or in-person on a jobsite. While online training provides greater accessibility and convenience, an onsite training session offers the ability to demonstrate real-world examples by job application and explore trade usage scenarios. Equipment manufacturers and various national organizations provide free ladder safety training in both formats. For example, OSHA conducts hundreds of ladder and fall protection safety training sessions every May as part of its National Safety Stand-Down initiative. A typical training for jobsite participants may include topics such as:

  • Safety protocols by application.
  • How to safely climb and work for extended periods from a ladder.
  • Common dangers posed by improper ladder use.

For a quick refresher or reference tool, take a look at the right and wrong ways to use a ladder. Even commonsense reminders can prevent against workplace injury.

Using a Ladder the Right Way

  • Prior to using a ladder, be certain that it is on a completely flat surface to prevent tipping.
  • Center your body on the ladder and keep your waist between the rails while maintaining a firm grip on the ladder.
  • Climb facing the ladder, move one step at a time and firmly set one foot before moving the other one. This is important to remember on your descent as well — don’t take any shortcuts to get down quicker.
  • If possible, have one person hold the ladder at the bottom while another person performs the task.
  • Move materials with extreme caution so as not to lose your balance or tip the ladder.

Using a Ladder the Wrong Way

  • Don’t stand above the fourth rung from the top of an extension ladder. This is very important as you can easily lose your balance and fall.
  • Don’t climb a ladder if you are not physically and mentally up to the task.
  • Don’t place the base of an extension ladder too close to, or too far away from, the house/building.
  • Don’t over-reach or lean to one side.
  • Don’t try to move a ladder while on it or from above. Climb down and then reposition the ladder closer to where you are working.
  • Don’t exceed the maximum weight of a ladder.
  • DO NOT permit more than one person on an extension ladder.

Ladder Inspection Checklist

Many roofers feel confident operating a ladder to perform their job duties. However, many take for granted the state of the equipment itself. Ladder inspections are just as important as general ladder use training. Both roofers and contracting business owners should know how to properly inspect all climbing equipment prior to each use.

Figure 2. The correct positioning of fall protection equipment and the connecting device is crucial.

While there are many ladder styles and models, there are several aspects of a safety inspection that apply to every ladder. The following should always be inspected before climbing a ladder.

1. Steps: Inspect each step of the ladder to search for cracks in the material, looseness between the step and the body of the ladder, missing pieces of hardware such as screws and bolts, or any missing steps.

2. Rails: Inspect each rail of the ladder for cracks in the material, frayed rail shields, or bent angles. These are indicators of compromised stability.

3. Labels: Ensure the ladder still has labels that are legible. Labels will often list important user information, such as the load capacity for the climber and their materials, directions for climbing safely, as well as any compliances with OSHA or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

4. Material quality: Ensure the ladder’s material is in good condition. Check for corrosion, rusting, or any loose parts, which can pose a danger to the user if left unchecked.

5. Hardware: Check to see that all bracing, shoes and rivets on the ladder are uniform and securely placed.

Proper fall protection training is essential. Photos: Werner Ladder

Each item on this five-part checklist can be inspected with a quick and thorough scan. If any of these five aspects of a ladder are not secure and sound, a ladder is not fit for climbing and should be immediately removed from service until it is either repaired or permanently discarded.

It’s also important to understand the unique aspects of ladders that are frequently used on the worksite. The most common types of ladders chosen by roofing professionals are stepladders, extension ladders and podium ladders, which all pose various benefits and have notable differences in their construction. Below are important attributes to check for each ladder style. A sample ladder inspection form is shown in Figure 1. To find ladder inspection forms tailored to your exact ladder model, visit your manufacturer’s website.

Stepladders

When using stepladders, ensure the spreaders are not loose, bent or broken. They should smoothly unfold when the stepladder is opened.

1. Top: Check the top of the ladder for any missing hardware or looseness. Many roofers rest tools and equipment on the top of the ladder, which may become damaged over time.

2. Pail shelf: Some roofers choose to add a pail shelf to their ladder, which can hold a bucket for tools and materials. Inspect the shelf to make sure it is properly secured to the ladder, doesn’t contain any material cracks, and is not bent out of shape.

3. Spreader: Look at the spreaders to make sure they are not loose, bent or broken. They should smoothly unfold when the stepladder is placed in an open position.

Podium Ladders

On podium ladders, the podium must be carefully inspected, as it often carries most of the user’s weight.

1. Platform: Inspect the platform to be sure it does not contain cracks, does not have missing hardware, and is not bent out of shape. The podium often carries most of the weight of the user, so be aware of any damages in the material.

2. Spreader: Similar to a stepladder, be sure to inspect both the top and the spreaders of the podium ladder.

Extension Ladders

Inspect the rung locks to make sure that they are not loose, bent, missing or broken.

1. Rung locks: The rung locks on an extension ladder are essential to maintaining structural integrity while climbing. Inspect these pieces to make sure that they are not loose, bent, missing or broken.

2. Shoes: Take a look at the shoes of the extension ladder to see whether they are worn, broken or missing. The shoes may experience significant wear over time, as they support the weight and position of the ladder.

3. Rope/pulley: Ensure that the rope is not frayed or damaged and make sure the pulley is not loose, bent or broken before climbing.

Products That Improve Roofing Safety

While ladder inspections will protect against equipment failure, safety accessories can complement these efforts and provide additional safety measures by making ladders more stable and secure. To combat the possibility of slips and falls from ladders, especially in rainy weather, manufacturers now offer ladders with slip-resistant treads on ladder steps and non-marring rubber foot pads to maximize a ladder’s ground contact.

Roofing professionals working at the edge of a low-height roof may consider utilizing a podium-style ladder with an extra-wide platform step to support a greater range of motion and stability while working. Hardware enhancements, such as shatter-proof locks and sturdy latch designs, enhance the durability of equipment. A ladder leveler is another accessory that can help prevent accidents. It attaches to the bottom of a ladder and helps provide an evenly supported working surface when working on sloped ground or a staircase.

Use of Fall Protection Equipment and Ladders

Roofing professionals may find themselves using fall protection equipment in tandem with extension ladders as they transition from standing on a ladder to standing on a roof. This is especially the case with high-sloped roofs, which require additional safety protocols to reduce the risk of injury.

OSHA specifies that a professional working on a steep roof must be protected by a guardrail system, safety net system or personal fall arrest system. When on a low-slope roof that features an unprotected edge 6 or more feet above a lower level, professionals must use fall protection. Below are three common scenarios in which roofers should consider using fall protection equipment.

When standing next to:

1. An unprotected edge — any side or edge (except at entrances to points of access) of a walking work surface where there is no wall or guardrail system of at least 39 inches.

2. A leading edge — the edge of a floor, roof or deck, which changes location as additional floors, roofs, decking or sections are placed, formed or constructed.

3. Holes — including skylight roof openings.

Just as it’s important for roofing professionals to be trained in proper ladder use, fall protection training carries the same weight. All roofing professionals should have an understanding of the primary components of a secure fall protection system and how they work in tandem to ensure a user’s safety. The graphic in Figure 2 demonstrates the correct positioning of a fall protection anchorage, a connecting device, and a harness.

Fall Protection Inspection Checklist

Just like ladders, fall protection equipment should be inspected by the user before every use, as broken or degraded equipment will not ensure the user’s safety. When inspecting a harness, it’s important to watch out for the following five items:

1. Fraying in the material.

2. Significant discoloration of materials (especially around clasps and joints).

3. Rusting of metal appliances.

4. Missing rings and buckles.

5. Excessive dirt or grease (this can be removed with warm, soapy water).

If any of the above items are found, the harness should not be used. It should be immediately taken out of service and removed from the jobsite. It may sound obvious, but simply wearing fall protection gear — even gear that passes your checklist — doesn’t automatically protect the user. Proper positioning must also be inspected after the worker has put on the harness. Roofers can self-inspect or use a buddy system to ensure maximum protection.

1. Make sure the harness’s centered chest strap has been properly fitted and routed. The chest strap should always be located at the sternum. Loose straps can cause injury, and the mispositioning of your straps could result in gear failure.

2. Connecting devices must be self-locking and closing, require a minimum of two separate steps for release and a 5,000-pound minimum breaking strength.

3. Always use a 3-foot lanyard and ensure your vertical lifelines are above the D-ring or adjusted for safe reach as you move.

Create Your Own Culture of Safety

In a high-risk profession like roofing, a commitment to safety is essential. This often begins and ends with equipment use training, which educates workers on the proper way to use a ladder or fall protection equipment. While this is an essential step in creating a safe environment, both business owners and roofing contractors can take safety a step further by introducing equipment inspections as a part of your jobsite protocols. Taking the time before each use to scan equipment for flaws has the potential to save lives.

Be sure to include inspections as part of your next safety training and consider printing off these important safety checklists to keep on hand. While roofing professionals may face many hazards at work, the one thing that can be controlled is your commitment to equipment safety.

Safety Resources:

For free online ladder safety and fall protection safety training, please visit Werner Ladder’s website, www.wernerco.com/us/support/training.

For more information on ladder safety and to review comprehensive literature and other safety resources, visit OSHA’s Portable Ladder Safety guide, www.osha.gov/Publications/portable_ladder_qc.html.

About the author: Chad D. Lingerfelt is the National Safety Training Manager at WernerCo. In this role, he oversees all of the Fall Protection and Ladder Safety Training. For the past 32 years, he has worked in the safety field making sure everyone goes home at the end of the day. For more information, visit www.wernerco.com/us.

Three Key Questions About OSHA Inspections

OSHA will investigate a jobsite for a number of reasons. A representative from OSHA will show up if an employee has issued a complaint against you, if there is a recent fatality, or if there is an imminent threat they have identified. The dangers of fall-related injuries in the industry have been well documented, and this has prompted inspectors in your area to be on the lookout for roofers. Additionally, roofers are the easiest to cite due to the fact that roofing is a highly visible construction trade and an inspector does not have to use much effort to determine the likelihood of a dangerous situation that needs inspecting.

OSHA inspections can be stressful, but they can be less stressful if you know your rights and the proper procedures to follow during an inspection. Here are the answers to the most common questions I encounter when it comes to OSHA inspections.

Question #1: Do I have to comply, and what happens if I refuse OSHA access?

First and foremost, you need to know that OSHA has a legal right to inspect your jobsite. OSHA has what is called “administrative probable cause” to inspect and investigate your project. OSHA’s probable cause is more easily obtained than that of other agencies. An officer of a city, state, or federal law enforcement agency needs a much more specific probable cause to enter a private citizen’s property. This is not the case with OSHA. When an active construction project is taking place, there is an inherent risk of danger and injury, and this gives OSHA all the administrative probable cause they need.

This is not to say that you and your site superintendent do not have the right to deny OSHA access to the project and demand that they get a warrant. The site superintendent has the option to consent to OSHA’s inspection or deny them access to the project. The superintendent is well within his or her rights to tell the inspector to get a warrant. However, if you tell OSHA to get a warrant, they most certainly will. Because of OSHA’s broad power to oversee safety within the United States, they can obtain a warrant from a judge or magistrate. Once OSHA obtains a warrant for a site inspection, their inspection can become much more invasive. This means that OSHA inspectors can get permission from a judge to examine documents, conduct extensive interviews, and also perform scientific tests on items such as air quality, presence of combustible material, or any other danger.

The bottom line is that it is rarely a good idea to tell an OSHA compliance officer to get a warrant. The reasoning behind this has to do with the scope of OSHA’s inspection rights under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR demands that OSHA’s inspection be “reasonable.” This essentially means that they are limited to inspect only the workers, equipment, and materials which are within “plain sight.” “Plain sight” is a doctrine borrowed from criminal law and the Fourth amendment, which says that a government agent may not sample or manipulate anything that is not within his or her reasonable line of sight. If an agent violates this doctrine, it is possible that all the information they obtained during the inspection may be suspect.

Question #2: What should I do during the inspection, and are there areas I can prevent OSHA from viewing?

When OSHA is on site, the superintendent should remain alert, aware, and advocate for his or her company. The superintendent has specific rights granted to them under the CFR, and they must use those rights in order to protect themselves, the business, and the men and women who rely on that business for their livelihood.

The superintendent has the right to accompany the inspectors wherever they go on site, and he or she should do so. The inspector should be followed on the roof, through the rafters, and wherever else they intend to go. The superintendent also needs to ask a few key questions of the inspector and needs to ask them often. Mainly, he or she needs to know why OSHA is there. What is the scope of their investigation? What specifically are they there to see? Once the superintendent knows what OSHA wants, he or she can then limit them to what they can see. If an inspector attempts to go outside that scope, then the superintendent needs to notify them immediately.

Question #3: What happens during the inspection?

During the inspection, the OSHA compliance officer will make a walkthrough of the project. The inspector’s main focus is usually on fall protection equipment and fall protection practices of the crew. Always make sure every harness, rope, and lanyard on site is properly maintained. If a harness has been previously impacted, it does not need to be on a jobsite. Such equipment should be discarded and replaced. Roofers are cited far too often because an old harness or frayed rope stays on a truck when it should have been discarded. This is an easy citation to avoid. Throughout the inspection, the OSHA officer may perform brief interviews with the crew and question crew members on various issues relating to the inspection. OSHA has the right under the CFR to perform these interviews in private, away from the superintendent. Although the questioning can be private, it must also be brief. The superintendent needs to object to any questioning that goes on for an excessive amount of time.

Next, an OSHA inspector may ask to interview the managers and superintendents on site. This is a common practice, and OSHA inspectors are within their rights granted by the CFR to request such an interview; however, company managers have the right to refuse an interview without counsel present. This is important to remember because poor statements about safety from a crewman can hurt your case, but poor statements about safety from a supervisor can destroy your case. The only discussion going on between a supervisor and an OSHA compliance office during the walkthrough inspection should involve the scope of the inspection. The superintendent should not answer any questions regarding safety protocols, equipment, or practices without the assistance of counsel. If OSHA wants to speak with a manager, supervisor, or superintendent, they must do so with an attorney present. Paying for a lawyer may be expensive, but paying for a “willful” OSHA citation can bankrupt a roofing company.

Remember Your Rights

An OSHA inspection can be a trying and frustrating time. A roofing contractor’s best defenses against costly citations are to teach satisfactory safety techniques within the crew; update and maintain the required safety equipment; ensure everyone is aware of the jobsite-specific safety plan; and remember their rights when OSHA visits the jobsite.

About the author: Anthony Tilton, Partner at Cotney Construction Law, focuses on all aspects of construction law and works primarily on matters relating to OSHA defense. Cotney Construction Law is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for FRSA, RT3, NWIR, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, visit www.cotneycl.com.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

New Crossovers Provide Safe Access Over Rooftop Obstructions

Kee Safety Inc. introduces its Crossover Safe Access Platforms to provide safe, efficient routes for maintenance, construction, and other personnel when accessing rooftops of flat and low-sloped buildings. Engineered to comply with OSHA safety standards, the new multi-purpose Crossovers feature a Kee Walk anti-slip modular walkway and platform system with handrails that enables workers to step over piping, HVAC equipment, and other obstructions as well as traverse changes in rooftop levels. The Crossovers can accommodate standing seam, metal profile, and other roof types, and they install without penetrating the roof membrane, according to Kee Safety.

Steps and platform floors are built using high-grade nylon treads, checker plate, or steel grating. Base feet can be roof-mounted, have fixed feet, or a combination of both. Safety railings are constructed of Kee Lite Aluminum or Kee Klamp Galvanized Steel for strength, durability, and corrosion-resistance. The new Crossovers integrate seamlessly with Kee Safety OSHA-compliant fall protection systems and equipment to deliver a complete rooftop safety solution, the company states.

Each Crossover Safe Access Platform is custom designed based on the specific rooftop application criteria to meet worker access and safety needs. They can be delivered in fully pre-assembled systems or with modular sections, or partially-assembled flat-pack containers for simple, on-site installation, according to the company.

For product details and to download a free brochure, visit: https://www.keesafety.com/products/rooftop-crossove

For more information, visit www.KeeSafety.com

Witness Statements and OSHA Inspections

During any OSHA inspection, the Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) will more than likely take witness testimony from crew members that are on site. This CSHO will hand-write the interview answers and ask the employee to sign the witness statement. Most employers and employees do not understand their rights during an OSHA inspection and do not know that they are not required to sign witness statements. This article explores the use of witness statements by OSHA and suggests alternatives to signing a witness statement.

First and foremost, it should be noted that all members of management, including officers, directors, and owners, have the right to have counsel present during any OSHA interview. In addition, any supervisory employee is also considered part of management, and therefore has the ability to have counsel present during the interviews. When OSHA inspects a jobsite, supervisory employees such as crew leaders, foremen, superintendents, and/or project managers should assert their right to have counsel present before giving any testimony to OSHA. In other words, the supervisor should state their name, position and assert the right to counsel. This will give the individual an opportunity to discuss the alleged violations with management and counsel prior to being interviewed. It will also allow management and counsel to be present during the interviews. Generally, these interviews occur at counsel’s office or OSHA’s area office rather than the jobsite, thereby limiting exposure to additional potential violations.

With regard to crew member interviews, management and counsel for management cannot be present during non-supervisory employee interviews. However, if the employee requests that counsel be present for the interview, OSHA must allow counsel to be present. During the interviews, OSHA will ask a variety of questions regarding safety training and jobsite-specific acts or omissions. For example, common safety training questions include how to properly tie off, use personal protective equipment (PPE), properly install anchor points, properly tie off ladders, knowledge about hydration and water breaks, knowledge regarding risks associated with swing radius, inhalation of chemicals and/or silica, as well as other potential hazards.

The jobsite-specific questions will focus on the who, where, when, what and how. In particular, questions will be asked to employees regarding the training they received and commands they received on the date of the incident. For example, if employees are not properly tied off as required, the CSHO will ask whether employees were instructed to tie off on the date of the inspection, whether supervisory employees inspected the crew members during construction, and the reason(s) why employees were not tied off. OSHA often asks whether employees were not wearing fall protection because they were told to complete work at an accelerated pace or to meet certain schedule obligations. If an employee answers in the affirmative, it could be damaging to the employer.

While the testimony is being taken, the CSHO will be drafting a witness statement, which generally contains self-serving declarations for purposes of prosecuting the employer. No one is required to sign a witness statement. Both supervisory and non-supervisory employees can refuse to sign witness statements. The CSHO may take his/her own notes and use that as evidence or have the local area office issue a subpoena requiring that his/her testimony be taken under oath. This delay in obtaining testimony may be beneficial for the employer because it will allow the employee to have the opportunity to think about his/her answers and be in a better mindset for purposes of providing testimony. It also gives counsel and management an opportunity to speak with and prepare the employee for the interview if he or she wishes to do so. Obviously, regardless of when testimony is provided, all employees must always tell the truth.

OSHA relies heavily upon the witness statements during inspections to issue citations. Employees need to understand that interviews are voluntary and that they have the right to decline the interview outright. In the absence of a subpoena, an interviewee cannot be compelled to do anything during the voluntary interview. Additionally, an employee also has the right to refuse the recording of an interview, whether video or audio, and has the right to take a break from the interview at any time.

As always, nothing in this article is meant to suggest that any employer should not fully comply 100 percent with OSHA rules and standards. However, it is important to understand and assert your rights while an inspection is being performed to help limit exposure to OSHA citations.

About the author: Trent Cotney, CEO of Cotney Construction Law, is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for FRSA, RT3, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, contact the author at 866-303-5868 or www.cotneycl.com.

OSHA Requests Information on Possible Updates to the Lockout/Tagout Standard

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is requesting information on a possible update to the Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)) standard. The Agency is interested in comments on the use of control circuit-type devices to isolate energy, as well as the evolving technology for robotics.

OSHA is requesting information about how employers have been using control circuit devices, including information about the types of circuitry and safety procedures being used; limitations of their use, to determine under what other conditions control circuit-type devices could be used safely; new risks of worker exposure to hazardous energy as a result of increased interaction with robots; and whether the agency should consider changes to the LOTO standard that would address these new risks.

The current LOTO standard, published in 1989, requires that all sources of energy be controlled during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment using an energy-isolating device. The standard specifies that control circuit devices cannot be used as energy-isolating devices, but the agency recognizes recent technological advances may have improved the safety of control circuit-type devices.

Comments must be submitted on or before August 18, 2019. Comments and materials may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, or by facsimile or mail. See the Federal Register notice for submission details.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. 

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA Issues Rule to Revise Requirements in Safety and Health Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule that revises 14 provisions in the recordkeeping, general industry, maritime, and construction standards that may be confusing, outdated, or unnecessary. The revisions are expected to increase understanding and compliance with the provisions, improve employee safety and health, and save employers an estimated $6.1 million per year.

OSHA proposed the changes in October 2016. This is the fourth final rule under OSHA’s Standards Improvement Project, which began in 1995 in response to a Presidential memorandum to improve government regulations. Other revisions were issued in 1998, 2005, and 2011.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

MRCA Safety Directors Meeting Live Seminar/Webinar Set for May 31

Gary Auman of Auman, Mahan & Furry concentrates his practice in OSHA defense nationally. He has 40 years of experience in OSHA compliance and litigation matters. Gary serves as General Counsel for many State, Regional and National Associations. During this Safety Directors Meeting, Gary will speak on the following topics:

  • Important updates to the Rules of Practice that impact all employers
  • Current OSHA enforcement activities
  • Emergency Action Plans

Live Seminar/Webinar

Friday May 31, 2019

11:30 am – 1:00 pm EST Lunch Buffet

The Engineers Club of Dayton

110 E. Monument Ave., Dayton, OH

You can attend this session live or participate via webinar, instructions will be emailed after receipt of registration. Register here to attend the webinar.

For more information, visit www.mrca.org.

National Fall Prevention Safety Stand-Down Scheduled for May 6-10

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is joining with occupational safety organizations for the 6th annual National Fall Prevention Safety Stand-Down, May 6-10, 2019. The week-long event will focus attention on preventing falls in construction, the leading cause of fatalities in the industry.

The national stand-down encourages employers and workers to pause voluntarily during the workday for safety demonstrations, training in hazard recognition and fall prevention, and talks about hazards, protective methods, and the company’s safety policies, goals and expectations.

“Falls can be prevented when employers train and educate workers about these hazards properly and provide appropriate protection,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “This should be a priority during the first week of May and must be a priority every day. OSHA has tools readily available for employers and workers to address the prevention of fall hazards.”

OSHA anticipates thousands of work sites and millions of workers to observe the stand down worldwide in 2019. To help guide their efforts, the Agency’s fall prevention webpage provides information on how to conduct a successful event, and educational resources in English and Spanish, including:

  • A series of fall safety videos that demonstrate how to prevent fall hazards from floor openings, skylights, fixed scaffolds, bridge decking, reroofing, and leading edge work.
  • OSHA’s Fall Prevention Training Guide that provides a lesson plan for employers, including several Toolbox Talks.
  • Fact sheets on ladders and scaffolding that describe the safe use of these types of equipment while performing construction activities.
  • A brief video, 5 Ways to Prevent Workplace Falls, encourages employers to develop a fall prevention plan, and to provide workers with fall protection and training.

Employers are encouraged to provide feedback after their events, and to obtain a personalized certificate of participation. The national safety stand-down is part of OSHA’s fall prevention campaign, and was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Occupational Research Agenda, and The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR). To learn more about preventing falls in construction, visit OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign page.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

Understanding the New OSHA Regulations for Fixed Ladders

As of November 19,2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) implemented new requirements for fixed ladders on buildings. Understanding these new ladder regulations can be confusing, and you can spend a great deal of time referencing the standard interpretations pages on the OSHA website and still not find the answers you need. 

In this article, we will be referencing the OSHA fixed ladder rules found under Occupational Health and Safety Standards, Subpart D, Standard 1910.28, “Duty to Have Fall Protection and Falling Object Protection.” We will address some of the most frequently asked questions about the regulations for fixed ladders and include some tips and links to other resources for more information. 

What has OSHA changed?

The first and primary change is the phasing out of cages on fixed ladders. Many see this as a step forward for ladder safety. The reality is that cages offer little in the way of fall protection. In fact, they can increasethe risk of injury during a fall. 

Should we order our new ladder with a cage or not?

Under the new rules, cages are not required or recommended for any new ladder installation. We will get deeper into what this means for existing ladders later in this article.

The next question is if OSHA takes away cages, how are they planning to protect people from falls? This is accomplished using a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) or ladder safety system. These come in wide variety of designs. 

Three primary types are:

1. Bolt-on cable systems (with a cable grab fall arrester)

2. Track systems (with a climbing trolley)

3. Top-mounted self-retracting lifelines

Of course, each type has its advantages and disadvantages. The key is that each must meet the minimum OSHA requirements outlined in section 1926.502(d) of the OSHA codes. 

When is a PFAS Required?

Under the new regulations, a ladder over 24 feet high will require a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system. You can choose any PFAS provided it meets the OSHA requirements in section 1926.502(d).

Please note: A ladder that is less than 24 feet high does not require a fall arrest system of any sort. 

What about landing platforms?

Multi-section ladders with a climb of 24 feet or more require rest points. These are meant to protect climbers as they ascend. Previously, a fixed ladder with a cage required a landing platform at a maximum interval of 30 feet.

The new regulations change this requirement dramatically. Fixed ladders without cages must now have a landing platform at maximum intervals of 150 feet. Ladders with cages must now have a landing platform at maximum intervals of 50 feet. 

How do the new rules affect existing ladders?

Under the new rules, the modification of an existing ladder or replacement of a ladder section requires that the modified or replaced section be equipped with a fall arrest system. 

By November 18, 2036, allladders 24 feet or higher must be retrofitted with a PFAS or ladder safety system.

Here’s the confusing part: Will all existing ladders with cages have to be replaced, or at least have the cages removed? No.The existing caged ladder can stay. But as outlined above, a fall arrest system of some type will have to be retrofitted. 

In such cases, the cage must not interfere with whatever fall arrest system is installed. Choosing the right type fall arrest is critical in these retrofit situations.

What questions should I ask then choosing a fall arrest system?

While the fall arrest systems themselves are not that complicated, the burden often falls on the purchaser to try to figure out all the parts and pieces needed to make their ladder OSHA compliant. 

It’s not uncommon to select a fall arrest system, only to find out the product or that the accessories needed to make it compliant might be discontinued or out of stock. This leads to a list of questions that you need to ask prior to picking a fall arrest system:

· Will this system work with my ladder and the height of my climb?

· What is the system’s load capacity? 

· Will the system allow for only one or for multiple climbers? How many?

· What is the true product cost? You need to gather information on the cost of not only the base components, but any accessories needed to make the system OSHA compliant, such as harnesses, cable grabs, trolleys, carabiners, etc. 

· Is the system, and all its accessories, readily available?

· Will replacement parts be available in the future?

Where can I turn for more information about ladder regulations? 

Reputable manufacturers and suppliers of ladders and fall protection equipment should have experienced personnel on hand that can help you navigate the new OSHA regulations. The OSHA website includes the regulations cited above, as well as a Q and A section that covers fixed ladders (https://www.osha.gov/walking-working-surfaces/faq.html). Contractors can also contact their area OSHA representative for assistance. 

Other OSHA ladder resources available online include:  https://www.osha.gov/stopfalls/trainingresources.html  and https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/alliances/alliance_products.html#Ladder.

The American Ladder Safety Institute also provides an online ladder safety training resource: https://www.laddersafetytraining.org/

About the author: Chris Lafferty is a sales and marketing associate with Design Components Inc., a full-service provider of fixed ladders and fall protection accessories. For more information, visit www.designcomponents.com

Rooftop Walkway System Features Integrated Safety Railing

Kee Safety Inc. introduces Kee Walk with Guardrail, an OSHA-compliant rooftop walkway system with integrated safety railing. Designed to provide a secure, anti-slip walking surface on all roof types including metal profile and standing seam roofs, Kee Walk with Guardrail accommodates steps, traverses, and sloped roofs with pitches up to 35 degrees, according to the company.

Serving as a “collective fall protection” system by OSHA criteria, Kee Walk with Guardrail helps to eliminate potential fall hazards by presenting a clear demarcation route for personnel accessing the roof. It can be used in conjunction with Kee Safety crossover platforms to provide safe access across roof-mounted pipework, over low-level walls, and to service plant equipment. The corrosion-resistant walkway-railing system is also compatible with other Kee Safety fall protection products to deliver a complete rooftop safety solution, according to the company.

Kee Walk with Guardrail is available with aluminum or nylon modules that feature anti-slip treads. These are supplied in 5-foot and 10-foot pre-assembled sections that are easy to install and do not require onsite fabrication. The guardrail uses Kee Klamp fittings and can be set up as either a single or dual-sided handrail system. The durable, corrosion-resistant system also installs without penetrating the roof. With its modular design, Kee Walk with Guardrail can be customized for layouts of new buildings or retrofitted onto existing structures. The walkway and guardrails combine to enhance worker safety even in wet and windy conditions, noted Kee Safety.

Established in 1934, Kee Safety is a global manufacturer of safety equipment and fall protection systems. Kee Safety products are designed for new-build and renovated or upgraded commercial, institutional, industrial, and municipal buildings and facilities.

To download a free brochure, visit: https://www.keesafety.com/products/kee-walk-with-guardrail

For more information, visit www.keesafety.com.  

https://www.keesafety.com