The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency of the Department of Labor, works to help employers and employees reduce on the job injuries, illnesses and deaths.
Per OSHA’s findings, there are an estimated 24,882 injuries each year due to falls from stairways and ladders, with nearly half of these injuries serious enough to require time off the job.
With many chemical storage tanks requiring ladders, it’s important to understand how to minimize the risk of employee injury with OSHA-approved ladders.
OSHA lays out the regulation standards for a fixed ladder, as you would use for a chemical storage tank in the Federal CFR 29 section 1910.23(d). Your state may have their own OSHA standards, please check with your local code inforcement. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important criteria when designing a fixed ladder.
OSHA Fixed Ladder Criteria, CFR 29
The minimum design live load of a ladder shall be a single concentrated load of 200 pounds. This means that the ladder must be designed so that at any point where a person might be standing, it will successfully support that weight. OSHA-approved ladders are designed for concentrated loads.
The distance between rungs, cleats, and steps shall not exceed 12 inches and shall be uniform throughout the length of the ladder. This means that the rungs (Poly’s fixed ladders don’t have cleats or steps) cannot be more than 12 inches apart in an effort to keep employees from overreaching, a mishap that could easily lead to a fall.
The distance from the centerline of rungs, cleats, or steps to the nearest permanent object in back of the ladder shall be not less than 7 inches. This distance between the tank wall and the ladder rung is often referred to as the “toe distance”. To alleviate any worries over this distance, we design our brackets to attach to the tank so that this distance requirement is met.
Cages shall be provided on ladders of more than 20 feet to a maximum unbroken length of 30 feet. Cages act as a form of fall protection, something that is critical when you’re that high off the ground. While the standard is 20 feet, Poly Processing will provide a cage for shorter ladders if requested, pending that they meet the next criteria.
Cages shall extend down the ladder to a point not less than 7 feet nor more than 8 feet above the base of the ladder. Cages starts at seven feet high in order for users to avoid striking their heads when walking at ground level.
Using Ladders In A Cost-Effective Manner
At times, it might be necessary to access something on top of a tank (for example, a level device might need to be maintained). In this case, it’s possible to move things around on the tank so the item is in close proximity.
In cases where close proximity is not possible, a second ladder may be added as opposed to an additional catwalk, which is a significant financial investment.
Maintaining Your OSHA-Approved Ladder
Ladder inspection and maintenance are paramount in maintaining proper safety. It’s important to inspect regularly. In addition, an inspection criteria list should always be utilized. It’s recommended that ladders are inspected at the same time your chemical storage tanks are examined.
A few things to check as part of the safety inspection include the rungs (to make sure things haven’t become too slick from over usage), as well as bolts on the brackets. Make sure to check for bent, broken, separated, and/or damaged areas of the ladder.