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What kind of fall safety protection is required on fixed ladders?

There’s no question that falls are among the most common and often the most serious injuries suffered by construction workers. Since falls from a height can be particularly catastrophic, numerous types of safety measures are required on construction jobs per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other regulators.

Over the years, these have included fixed ladder cages. However, safety experts determined nearly 20 years ago that these cages don’t provide adequate (if any) protection from falls. Since nothing moves quickly in the federal government, however, it took OSHA another dozen years (until 2016) to provide new fall prevention requirements and start phasing out the use of these cages. The current requirements include personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) and ladder safety systems. Fixed ladders can still have a cage along with the safety system if one was already installed, but it can’t interfere with the system.

Why are fixed ladder cages still in use?

Under the current regulations, any fixed ladder manufactured after Nov. 2018 (when the new regulation took effect) must have either a PFAS of ladder safety system. If it has only a cage or a well, it’s considered non-compliant.

If a fixed ladder was made before Nov. 2018, however, it’s not required to have a safety system. OSHA does require that when any part of a fixed ladder is replaced, a “personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system is installed in at least that section of the fixed ladder, cage, or well where the replacement is located.” All fixed ladders must be in compliance with the new fall safety regulations by Nov. 2036 (yes, you read that right).

All of this may be more than you want or need to know when you go to work. However, your employer and/or those in charge of the site and the equipment used do need to know the regulations and follow them. What you should know is that if you suffer an injury in a fall or other type of accident on a worksite, you almost certainly have the right to workers’ compensation to cover the costs of your medical care and help with lost wages. If the injury was caused by a third party – for example, if the equipment was faulty – you may have other sources of compensation as well. Seeking experienced legal guidance can help you ensure that you get the full value of the compensation you’re due.