Ladderway floor opening and platform
Question: Are chains or ropes allowed to protect a ladder opening instead of a gate?
Answer: The simple answer is no.
You cannot use a chain or rope to protect a ladder because a chain or rope can’t close itself leaving the hazard exposed. You’ve likely walked through numerous job sites with chains or ropes dangling lifeless to the side of an opening as workers pass through, unaware of the hazards to which they are exposed. The most dangerous hazard regarding a chain/rope instead of a gate is that it depends on someone else to put the chain back.
This resulted in OSHA’s new rule (November 2016) on walking-working surfaces and fall protection. Which states that, “OSHA believes that chains or ropes do not fully protect workers from falls at hole entrances, and therefore, is adopting the existing and proposed requirements that entrances to ladderway floor and platform holes have a self-closing gate or be offset to prevent workers from falling.”
Therefore, according to OSHA, a gate or offset is required at the top of all ladders. Below is the new OSHA code (same language as WISHA) reflecting this requirement:
1910.28(b)(3)(iv) – Each employee is protected from falling into a ladderway floor hole or ladderway platform hole by a guardrail system and toeboards erected on all exposed sides, except at the entrance to the hole, where a self-closing gate (see picture to the right) or an offset (see picture below) must be used.
Note: An offset access must make an employee make a 90 degree turn to access the ladder as seen below.