Do I Need a Swing Gate on My Fixed Ladder?

 

Walk-thru fixed ladder with cage

Walk-thru fixed ladder with safety cage

Do you need a ladder gate at your ladder opening in your railing? According to OSHA 1910.23(a)(2) “Every ladderway floor opening or platform shall be guarded by a standard railing with standard toeboard on all exposed sides (except at entrance to opening), with the passage through the railing either provided with a swinging gate or so offset that a person cannot walk directly into the opening.”

This means that every ladder opening needs to be either (a) Offset so that a person cannot walk (or fall) directly into the opening or (b) Protected by a ladder safety gate. It is an easy either/or. The most common ladder installation locations are not offset and as such require safety gates. Below you will see some photos of ladders and top view sketches clarifying why each of their orientations either do or do not require a gate.

One quick note – there is often a source of confusion surrounding the OSHA standards because of the passage further in the standard (1910.23(c)(1) which states “Every open-sided floor or platform 4 feet or more above adjacent floor or ground level shall be guarded by a standard railing (or the equivalent as specified in paragraph (e)(3) of this section) on all open sides except where there is entrance to a ramp, stairway, or fixed ladder. The railing shall be provided with a toeboard wherever, beneath the open sides, persons can pass, there is moving machinery, or there is equipment with which falling materials could create a hazard.”

Many people had been incorrectly interpreting this believing that if their ladder opening was under 4’h, a gate was not required. OSHA has cleared up this misconception by stating “Unguarded ladderway floor openings and unguarded ladderway entrances on all surfaces should be cited under section 1910.23(a)(2)”, for all intents and purposes, if you have a ladder opening, it is required to meet OSHA 1910.23(a)(2).

Now that we know what the code requirement is, it is time to review a few common ladder mounting orientations to discuss where they fall under the code.

Fixed ladder mounted to side of platform

Fixed ladder mounted to side of platform

The above fixed ladder is mounted onto the side of the platform. Work is performed further down the platform but it is possible to fall directly down the ladder opening. This location is not offset and as such would require a swing gate. See the below top view sketch for clarification.

Top view sketch of side mounted fixed ladderway opening

Top view sketch of side mounted fixed ladderway opening

You can walk directly to the ladder opening from where work is/can be expected to be performed and as such, a safety gate is required at the ladder opening.

Fixed ladder with offset landing platform

Fixed ladder with offset landing platform

The above ladder accesses a platform and then turns to access the main walkway. This ladder is offset and would not require a swing gate at the opening.

Top view sketch of offset mounted fixed ladderway opening

Top view sketch of offset mounted fixed ladderway opening

As you can see above, if someone fell while at the main walkway they would fall onto the ladder landing surface, they would not fall down the ladder opening. If the ladder was rotated to the left side of the landing it would require a safety gate because then the ladder opening would no longer be offset.

Ladderway opening on side of catwalk

Ladderway opening on side of catwalk

Above is a very common ladder mount position. This one can be tricky until you lay it out from the top view. From first glance it looks like because the ladder is off to the side that it would be offset from the normal flow of traffic, but if you fell at that point of the catwalk there would be no guarding to protect you. A swing gate is a requirement at this location.

Top view sketch of catwalk side mounted fixed ladderway opening

Top view sketch of catwalk side mounted fixed ladderway opening

As you can see from the above sketch, there is a single direction of travel to the ladder from the catwalk. This is not offset. It would be a single direction fall into the ladder opening and as such, a ladder safety gate is required to protect your employees when a ladder is installed in the above orientation.

Most areas are not offset. A good rule of thumb is that if you can fall into the ladder opening with a single direction fall, then you are not offset. The only example above that didn’t need a gate was the second ladder location. With that orientation, you would fall onto the ladder landing and then hit the rear railing, not fall through the ladder opening.

Finishes of modular building wall panels

When starting out on a project, it’s important to pick the right material. Painted mild steel rusts when used outdoors. Wood products swell when soaked. Stainless steel is expensive. You need to compare the properties of the material against the environment in which it will be utilized.

Modular wall systems are a versatile piece of equipment used in a number of different environments and applications. Because of this, we offer a number of different types of finishes on the panels so that we can meet the different requirements of the project.

 Modular building panels with a vinyl finish

6 mil. vinyl, Class A fire rated,  stipple textured vinyl.   Bone and white are standard.

Bone vinyl over gypsum A-wall building panel

The vast majority of the modular buildings we provide feature a vinyl finish to the panels. It serves as our best, and most cost effective, general all-purpose finish, offering you a clean finish to the panel so that you don’t need to paint the walls in the field. Being covered in vinyl also allows you to clean them with a damp sponge if the walls get dirty. One common application where we would use vinyl clad panels would be in an office space.

Modular building panels with a painted steel finish

Embossed, 24 gauge,  galvanized, painted steel.   Almond and white are standard. Smooth also available.

Almond painted steel over gypsum A-wall modular building panel

Another common option that we offer is to finish the panels with painted steel sheets, which can be applied to the inside of the panel, the outside of the panel, or both. Most commonly this is used in equipment enclosures where we are concerned that something might pierce the walls. The steel sheet acts as a layer of armor helping to prevent shrapnel from puncturing the system. The steel sheets also offer an additional benefit important in many equipment enclosures. Our typical wall panels consisting of two sheets of ½” gypsum board separated by polystyrene studs generally offer an STC of 32. The additional mass of the steel helps minimize the ability of sound to be transmitted through the walls. For each side of the wall that is clad in steel the STC rating increases roughly by one.

Fiberglass reinforced plastic modular building panel finish

Pebble textured, Class  C fire rated, Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic. Khaki and white are standard.   Smooth and Class A also available.

Khaki FRP clad gypsum modular wall panel

The third most common finish that we offer is fiberglass reinforced plastic (or FRP). FRP is our most durable modular wall panel finish. It holds up exceptionally well to various scrapes and abrasions, and the FRP is a more water resistant finish as well. One of the most common applications where we’ll use an FRP wall panel finish would be for bathroom walls.

Stay safe everyone!

We received a sobering message from a customer looking at our caged fixed ladders today:

 “My dad fell off of the roof to his death in June while trying to come down the ladder he had rested on the side of the building.  I believe his foot got caught in the rope.  If he had had one of these ladders this would not have happened.”

Stay safe out there everyone. I know that the above was just a random accident but if there is the chance that you can prevent those, especially after hearing about what can happen, why wouldn’t you?  Taking precautions and doing things the safe and right way may take a little longer or cost a little more, but going home to our loved ones at the end of the day is worth any price.

Our sincere condolences are with this customer and their family and hopefully sharing this story will cause someone else to take a moment to look around and make sure they are taking all necessary safety precautions. If you are unsure if you are doing something right, ask someone.

With a little help we can all make it home safe tonight.