OSHA states that each employee shall be 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 or an offset must be used. The following question is often asked:
Are chains or ropes allowed to protect a ladder opening instead of a gate?
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. Most of us have seen 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 or rope instead of a gate is that it relies on someone else to put the chain back. This risk is not acceptable. Therefore, according to OSHA, a gate or offset is required at the top of all ladders.
Note: An offset access must make an employee make a 90-degree turn to access the ladder, as seen below:
If two or more separate ladders are used to reach an elevated work area, you must make sure the ladders are offset with a platform or landing between them.
- Side-step ladders shall be offset with a platform or landing between them that extends at least 30” on the climbing side of the ladder
- The step-across distance when using a side-step ladder access is 15” – 20” (from the centerline of rungs) to the landing area or platform
- If utilizing a step-through ladder access, the nearest edge of the landing areas must be not less than 7” but not greater than 12”