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OSHA 30: Subpart X Stairways and Ladders

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Note: In a previous article that was posted on December 14, 2016, we gave an overview of OSHA’s 30 hour training course. You can read that article here:

The OSHA 30 hour Construction Industry Training course covers a number of specific topics. However, there are certain topics that OSHA may require contractors to complete extra training on based on the industry that the person participating is associated with.

Contact your local OSHA office to determine whether you are required to participate in extra training as part of the OSHA 30 hour Construction Industry Training course. More information can be found at

OSHA 30: Subpart X Stairways and Ladders

Stairways and ladders are often used in the maintenance and installation of HVAC equipment and both present particular dangers that can result in injury or death.

Subpart X of OSHA 30 training is designed to provide training on the dangers associated with the use of stairways and ladders and the safe use of stairways and ladders. This training also makes trainees aware of the most frequently cited stairway and ladder violations and how to avoid being cited by following applicable regulations.

Subpart X applies to all stairways and ladders used in construction, alteration, repair, and demolition workplaces covered under 29 CFR part 1926, and also sets forth, in specified circumstances, when ladders and stairways are required to be provided. Additional requirements for ladders used on or with scaffolds are contained in subpart L—Scaffolds.

X-1 What are the most frequently cited serious stairway and ladder violations?

  • Not providing a handrail or stair rail system on stairs of four or more steps [1926.1052(c)(1)].
  • Not securing a portable ladder or having it extended 3 feet (.9 m) above the upper landing before workers use it to reach an upper level [1926.1053(b)(1)].
  • Not providing a safe means to gain access to a vertical rise in elevation of 19 inches (48 cm) or more [1926.1051(a)].
  • Not providing a training program for workers on the proper construction, inspection, maintenance, care, use, and limitations of stairways and ladders [1926.1060(a)].
  • Not marking or tagging a defective ladder so that it would not be used before it has been repaired [1926.1053(b)(16)].

X-2 What are some effective control measures that can be used to protect workers from the hazards presented in X-1 above?

  • All stairways of 4 steps or more need to have a handrail. In addition, if there is a fall hazard of 6 feet (1.8 m) or more on an exposed side of the stairs then a stair rail system must be provided to prevent workers from falling off the side. Also, stairway landings 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above the surrounding area need to be provided with a guardrail system along the exposed perimeters of the landing.
  • When using a portable ladder, the top end must extend above the upper landing level by 3 feet (.9 m) or otherwise be tied off at the top to some secure point so that the ladder will not lose its position while a worker is using it. Portable ladders with structural defects are not to be used and are to be tagged or marked to indicate they are not to be used. Employees need to know what to look for to assure the ladder is safe to use before they put it in use.
  • Training for workers who use ladders and stairways is to help them avoid overloading; to know the fall protection features that need to be present when using ladders, and the correct procedures for erecting and disassembling stairways or ladders.

The following definitions are provided in section 23 and apply to the regulations that are part of the curriculum used in OSHA 29 CFR 1926 Subpart X training. It is important for participants of the training program to understand these definitions and how they are used.

“Cleat” means a ladder crosspiece of rectangular cross section placed on edge upon which a person may step while ascending or descending a ladder.

“Double-cleat ladder” means a ladder similar in construction to a single-cleat ladder, but with a center rail to allow simultaneous two-way traffic foremployees ascending or descending.

“Extension trestle ladder” means a self-supporting portable ladder, adjustable in length consisting of a trestle ladder base and a vertically adjustable extension section, with a suitable means for locking the ladders together.

“Fixed-ladder” means a ladder that cannot be readily moved or carried because it is an integral part of a building or structure. A side-step fixed ladder is a fixed ladder that requires a person getting off at the top to step to the side of the ladder side rails to reach the landing. A through fixed ladder is a fixed ladder that requires a person getting off at the top to step between the side rails of the ladder to reach the landing.

“Individual-rung/step ladders” means ladders without a side rail or center rail support. Such ladders are made by mounting individual steps or rungs directly to the side or wall of the structure.

“Job-made ladder” means a ladder that is fabricated by employees, typically at the construction site, and is not commercially manufactured. This definition does not apply to any individual-rung/step ladders.

“Ladder stand.” A mobile fixed size self-supporting ladder consisting of a wide flat tread ladder in the form of stairs. The assembly may include handrails.

“Maximum intended load” means the total load of all employees, equipment, tools, materials, transmitted loads, and other loads anticipated to be applied to a ladder component at any one time.

“Nosing” means that portion of a tread projecting beyond the face of the riser immediately below.

“Riser height” means the vertical distance from the top of a tread to the top of the next higher tread or platform/landing or the distance from the top of a platform/landing to the top of the next higher tread or platform/landing.

“Single-cleat ladder” means a ladder consisting of a pair of side rails, connected together by cleats, rungs, or steps.

“Stair rail system” means a vertical barrier erected along the unprotected sides and edges of a stairway to prevent employees from falling to lower levels. The top surface of a stair rail system may also be a “handrail.”

Ruben Porras

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