By Brett @ A-Mezz
Oftentimes, people are looking for an easier way to access their roof. They may have been using an extension ladder before, renting a bucket lift, or even pulling a truck up to the wall and climbing on the vehicle. Adding a permanently fixed roof access ladder is a great way to mitigate the cost of renting lift equipment, or increase the safety of the climber compared to using an extension ladder.
Once you’ve installed the permanent access ladder, you need to ensure that you protect yourself from having an “attractive nuisance”, or in other words, an item on your property that can be a magnet to curious kids, while at the same time providing an opportunity to cause them harm.
Generally, attractive nuisance laws start with the understanding that kids are not expected to foresee the danger all situations present. As the property owner, if there is reason to believe kids can access your property, you have a responsibility to prevent causes of potential harm. If the owner does not, the property owner could very well be held responsible for the injury to a child. Keep in mind that in many courts, kids are not just young children, but can very well be teenagers also.
What are ways to mitigate your liability? The easiest way is to be a responsible property owner. Make sure that you are following the local, state and federal laws and safety standards. Simply do what you can to prevent access to the hazard. Just as you would lock up tanks of propane so they can’t be stolen or so that kids can’t access them, you should do the same with your ladder if it is in an area accessible to kids. A simple lockable door over the rungs of your ladder can help accomplish this. Though it will not stop someone who is determined to gain access to the roof and is willing to ‘spiderman’ up the side, or pull their car up and climb up, it will help lessen your exposure to inquisitive kids, as well as add a deterrent to opportunistic thieves and vandals. Another option, if you have the room, is to fence in the area surrounding the ladder (this also works well at the bottom of stairs accessing roofs). Again, if someone is determined to partake in criminal activities they will find a way to do circumvent whatever you do, but with regards to having an “attractive nuisance” you will have helped alleviate the opportunity for accidents.
By Brett @ A-Mezz
Let’s dive into a little workplace safety tangent. Earlier this month an article came out of Wyoming pointing that their state legislators may hike the workplace safety penalties for companies found to be in violation of the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Currently, according to an OSHA.gov publication, OSHA can assess a penalty of $1,500 to $7,000 for a ‘serious violation’. The OSHA definition of a serious violation is one where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result. This could be a situation that the employer was not even aware failed to meet federal safety standards. We come across this all the time when it comes to fall protection and machine guarding. If your roof hatch is open and employees are doing work in the vicinity, there is an opportunity for serious injury unless you use a roof hatch safety rail. Likewise, fixed ladders that do not have automatically closing ladder gates or offset orientations could also cause serious injury should a fall occur. Shop machines without proper guarding, and in some cases, without electrical interlocks, can also cause serious violations if your employees can gain access to movable parts without the machine shutting down.
OSHA also has a penalty for a “Willful Violation”. This they define as a violation that the employer intentionally and knowingly commits. The employer is aware that a hazardous condition exists, knows that the condition violates a standard or other obligation of the act, and makes no reasonable effort to eliminate it. OSHA can access penalties up to $70,000 for each violation. Knowing that areas lack proper fall protection but choosing not to address the hazard could easily put an employer into this category of violation. Should that violation result in the death of an employee the penalty can be increased up to $250,000 (or $500,000 if the employer is a corporation). Those fines are in addition to any legal amounts the injured or killed party may be awarded.
As Benjamin Franklin once put it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Proper safety equipment is MUCH less expensive than ignoring a safety issue and having a costly accident.
Uncaged Ladder for Catwalk Access
We supplied the above permanent ladder to a customer who was accessing elevated sections of their presses with catwalk platforms. As the top landings for the presses were infrequently accessed, and floor space was minimal, using a fixed ladder with a walk through handrail was the best solution due to its small footprint, safe access and low cost.
Our standard fixed 8 rung ladders have two pairs of standoff brackets to mount to the wall, but because there was no wall to mount the ladder to in this instance, the installer fabricated custom plates for the wall mount brackets to bolt to. Those custom brackets then mounted to the single C-channel running behind the access ladder.
The ladder was supplied with a walk through handrail that they bolted to the top of their landing. Even though they have OSHA handrail on the catwalk the ladder needed its own walk through rails per OSHA 1910.27(d)(3) which states:
“The side rails of through or side-step ladder extensions shall extend 3 1/2 feet above parapets and landings. For through ladder extensions, the rungs shall be omitted from the extension and shall have not less than 18 nor more than 24 inches clearance between rails.”
There are two main instances that you would find a ladder without the walk through handrails. The first is when you are stepping off to the side of the access ladder to exit (right or left hand exit). Keep in mind that when doing a side exit off your permanently fixed ladder you will still need to have four additional ladder rungs above the landing surface to meet the 42” extension, you wouldn’t just omit the rungs from the extension. Those additional ladder rungs would be for hand hold only.
The second instance that you would not need a walk through handrail is when the fixed ladder is accessing a manhole or any climbs that terminate with hatches. There is no walk through handrail requirement in OSHA 1910.27 for manholes or hatches, and as such, grab bar devices would be voluntary. For information on OSHA’s thoughts regarding telescoping ladder posts see the following letter: http://www.ladderhatch.com/osha-roof-hatch-interpretation.htm
Installation of parapet crossover fixed ladder by crane
We recently completed fabrication and installation of some hard to reach roof ladders for a customer in northeast Ohio. They were looking to access their upper roof level from their lower roof. Before contacting A-Mezz, if they were on the lower roof and wanted to access the upper roof, they needed to climb back down the roof hatch ladder, walk over to the taller building section and take an elevator to the top floor of that building. They then had to climb back up another ladder through a roof hatch. This was entirely too time consuming and a big efficiency drain.
We arrived on site and after reviewing the site conditions it was decided that an uncaged ladder was the best solution to their roof access problems.
There were a couple of things that we had to work around at the site. The first item we had to work around was that the upper most roof had a parapet wall on top.
According to the ANSI Standard A14.3-2002, the first rung of a climb has to be 14” or less from ground level (floor or roof). As the parapet was over 14” high, a crossover platform was required to allow for rungs on the rear of the parapet.
The second item we had to work around was the row of windows that went around the building. We needed to make sure that the ladder brackets cleared the window span for installation so we made sure to attach directly above and below the windows. The ladder was also painted a brown color to help it blend in with the building, making it less noticeable from the parking lot and street.
Lifting the fixed ladder into place
The last item we had to work around was the install location. As we were going from one roof to another roof, it was impossible to use lift equipment like scissor lifts and fork lifts to safely get the parapet ladder into place for installation. As the overhead was clear and there was a concrete pad nearby, we brought in a crane for the heavy lifting.
Actual installation time for the parapet crossover ladder was just a couple of hours, but the planning and attention to all the little details on site are what made the process go so smoothly.
MLG gate used as a pedestrian walkway gate
We were contacted by a customer in Texas who wanted to put up some safety gates to alert employees and visitors of their noisy location to the heavy vehicle traffic. They used our MLG ladder gates to accomplish this. The safety swing gates are installed so that the user must pull the gate towards them and then step through the opening. This way they cannot just cross the heavy machinery vehicle traffic without being alerted to the large trucks that constantly pass by.
Our powder coat yellow gate closely matches their existing handrail in both the color and rail dimensions. The gate swings one way, but it can be flipped on the horizontal and vertical axis to achieve a left hand swing, a right hand swing, and a swing in, or swing out.
In this instance the existing handrail was a 1-1/2” sq. tube so they were able to bolt the gate to their handrails using the supplied U-bolts. Installation took about five minutes per safety swing gate.
Why are gates needed in areas like this? Look at the below reminders for pedestrians when around fork lifts and heavy machinery traffic from OSHA’s website :
- Be aware that lift trucks cannot stop suddenly. They are designed to stop slowly to minimize load damage and maintain stability.
- Stand clear of lift trucks in operation.
- Avoid a run-in. The driver’s visibility may be limited due to blind spots.
- Be aware of the wide rear swing radius.
- Use pedestrian walkways, or stay to one side of the equipment aisle.
- Never pass under an elevated load.
OSHA suggests that plant managers separate pedestrians from lift trucks by providing pedestrian walkways with permanent railings or other protective barriers, adequate walking space at least on one side, if pedestrians must use equipment aisles or pedestrian walkway striping on the floor, and/or if barriers cannot be used.
OSHA requires that permanent aisles and passageways be free from obstructions and appropriately marked where mechanical handling equipment is used. [29 CFR 1910.176(a)]
For the above customer, our MLG ladder safety gates helped them meet OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.176(a) in a cost effective and safe manner.
This is a project we completed in NE Ohio. The customer was looking for space for a secure tool crib for maintenance storage as well as the flexibility to store product. As the product was quite heavy, we utilized the ground floor portion for storing those items and used welded galvanized fencing above to secure their maintenance department’s tool storage. The welded wire fencing was selected because of its versatility. Welded wire partition panels have a weld at each intersection of the wire. In contrast, woven wire generally has the individual wires woven and tied off or welded to a fence frame. The welded wire option is great for most jobs because it can be cut to size in the field. If you measure inaccurately, it is not the end of the world because you can trim the extra length off the panels. Likewise, if there is piping or beams running in the way it is easy enough to cut the welded wire fence panel to accommodate the obstruction, while still maintaining the wire partition panel’s integrity.
We utilized the existing stairs and landing from the building adjacent to the new crib in an effort to cut down cost and avoid taking up more room than necessary on their plant floor. The light you see is a reminder light for the operators of the adjacent crane. It reminds them that the mezzanine and tool crib are there so that they don’t bring their load all the way back to the stop and potentially come in contact with the new structure.
On the front side of the mezzanine, a sliding door was in place for the occasional pallets of materials for maintenance to offload and store. The customer went with a sliding door because it could be opened, a pallet of material could be set on the top of the mezzanine deck and then the sliding door could be closed while the pallet was offloaded. With a hinged gate they would have needed to pull the pallet away from the opening to close the open fall hazard, but that wasn’t going to be feasible due to the bar grating decking.
This customer opted for a simple keyed entry on the hinge door, but they could have used a push button or key card lock with electric strike as well.
Ultimately, they were able to have secure storage for their maintenance department while keeping their product storage below, at a price that fit their budget.
By Brett @ A-Mezz
We were contacted by a customer who was looking for an easy way to circumvent a winding nest of conveyors so they would not have to serpentine around them, or worse, crawl over/under them. Some customized crossover stairs were just the ticket. We had to ensure that we did not interrupt the flow of traffic on the conveyor and next to the conveyor. Each crossover was fitted with front steps and rear steps when travel beyond the steps was necessary to let their employees have access to all four sides of the crossovers. The important thing was to increase mobility throughout the plant, while not cutting off areas they already had access to.
Each stair crossover was fitted with a 34” high handrail on one side and had closed diamond plate treads and decking to avoid slips and falls. Each platform was 30” high. Normally we’d just make the crossover level at the top so that you have less up and down when going across the conveyors, but the customer had some obstructions we had to work around. In the foreground of the photos below you can see that there are some control panels and electrical boxes for the conveyors that we had to keep clear. As we go higher with the mid platform we have to go longer with the stairs coming from the front and rear, which would then cause the stairs to interfere with those control panels, so the customer decided that they wanted the mid platform lower.
There was also the option to go without the mid platform and the crossover stairs coming from the front and rear of it. That was actually the original design, but their employees did not like having to walk up and down and up and down over and over – especially if they were carrying something with them. The mid platform being installed at a lower height was the compromise with regards to comfort, safety and available space.
The last photo in the set shows a location where the stair crossover was actually far enough behind the conveyor control panels to do a conveyor height platform with stairs coming from the front only. All of the crossovers were installed with the ability to be removed without too much difficulty should there be any faulty equipment that needs to be removed for repair or replacement beyond the stair.
By Brett @ A-Mezz
Protecting unguarded railing openings with ladder safety gates on a 12’h survey tower in Texas
We received these photos back from a happy customer who contacted us looking for safe platform access by their ladder for a survey tower in San Antonio, Texas. They were accessing the tower shown by a fixed ladder but they did not have any fall protection at the ladder opening which is the OSHA requirement.
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.
In other words you have to have a handrail with toeboard on all sides of an elevated structure, but at the ladder opening you have two options. Option #1 is to use a safety gate with top and mid rail but without the 4”high toe guard. This is your most common solution. Option #2 is to have the ladder offset so that you cannot step directly into the opening. This can add much cost to a job as you have to add landing space and railing to achieve the offset install location. As this survey tower was not using an offset landing for the ladder, the gate was this customer’s only option available to comply with OSHA standards.
After showing them several options, they finally decided on the MLG galvanized ladder gates. For something that was going to sit out in the elements and hopefully receive no maintenance, the galvanized gate with stainless steel springs was the best fit. The MLG gate also ended up being more than 20% cheaper than their other options so they saved some money on the project as well.
Close up of the galvanized ladder gate
Here you can see a close-up of the ladder gate. Installation was fast and simple: flip the gate around to get to the proper orientation, bolt the supplied U bolts around the existing railing, and adjust the length of the gate arm. Flipping the safety gate allows it to pull people away from the edge of the platform and into the middle. Installation took about 5 minutes from the time they unboxed the gate to completion, and now when they climb up the ladder they only have to push the gate in with their bodies and step onto the platform. No more reaching up to unhook chains – which don’t meet OSHA standards at ladder openings – or worrying about staying clear of an unguarded ladder opening.
This customer was so pleased with how our ladder gates worked for their unprotected opening that they called back and ordered more safety gates for another survey tower ladder of theirs.