OSHA National News Release
"FYI - As a follow-up to the 17 NOV 2016 email chain below, during recent VPP evaluations we've had some VPP Sites that were unaware of the updated OSHA General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces standard's requirement for a self-closing gates or offsets for protecting ladderway floor holes or ladderway platform holes. The final rule does not permit employers to use double chains in place of self-closing gates or offsets. Copied below for reference is 29 CFR 1910.28(b)(3)(iv) and more information from the preamble of the standard. The link below leads to the source documents.
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 or an offset must be used.
The preamble, page 82597:
Final paragraph (b)(3)(iv), similar to the existing (§ 1910.23(a)) and proposed (proposed paragraph (b)(14)(ii)) rules, requires that employers ensure they protect workers from falling into ladderway floor holes or ladderway platform holes by providing a guardrail system and toeboards on all exposed sides, except at the hole entrance. In addition, the final rule requires that employers protect the access opening in the guardrail system by using a "self-closing" gate or an offset so workers cannot walk or step into the hole.
Final paragraph (b)(3)(iv) substitutes "self-closing" gate for "swinging" gate language in the existing and proposed rules. The purpose of these gates, when open, is to provide a means of access to ladderway floor holes and, when closed, to provide guardrail protection that meets of all the criteria in final paragraph (b). The term "swinging" gate, as used in the existing and proposed rules, refers to gates that automatically swing back into a closed position when the opening is not being used for access to prevent workers from falling into the ladderway hole. These are sometimes called "safety gates" (Ex. 68). If gates do not swing automatically into a closed position, they do not provide the required guardrail protection.
OSHA is aware that, in addition to swinging gates, there are automatically closing sliding gates that are currently manufactured, readily available, and in use to protect workers from falling into ladderway floor and platform holes. OSHA believes these sliding gates provide protection that is as effective as the protection swinging gates provide. Therefore, to give employers the flexibility to use the type of automatically closing gate that works best for them, OSHA uses the term "self-closing" gates in final paragraph (b)(3)(iv).
OSHA received one comment on the proposed requirement. Edison Electric Institute (EEI) recommended that OSHA allow employers to use double chains "around holes used as points of access (such as ladderways)" (Ex. 207). "Many industrial facilities use double chains instead of swinging gates or guardrails at the top of fixed ladders," EEI said. "These have been effective for a number of decades" (Ex. 207). EEI also pointed out that the 1990 proposed rule would have allowed the use of chains, in addition to swinging gates and offsets, at the access openings in the guardrail systems.
OSHA has not adopted EEI's recommendation. In the preamble to the 2010 proposed rule, OSHA said the new proposed rule replaces the 1990 proposal (75 FR 28863). Unlike the 1990 proposal, proposed paragraph (b)(14)(ii) did not permit employers to use double chains in place of self-closing gates or offsets. As mentioned, OSHA believes that chains less protective than self-closing gates or off sets. Self-closing gates and offsets are passive fall protection methods that automatically restore guardrail protection as soon as the worker passes through the opening or offset area. Neither method requires the worker to take any action to restore that protection. However, if employers provide double chains at entrances to ladderway floor or platform holes, their employees would have to remove the chains and reattach them once they pass through the opening. If workers forget or fail to reattach the chains, they and others in the area could fall through the hole. Workers also are at increased risk of falling through the hole once they enter the area inside the guardrails to climb down the ladder because they have to turn around and away from the hole to reattach the chains and risk falling backward into the hole. If workers avoid this risk by not reattaching the chains, it exposes other workers to the risk of a fall when they approach the opening in the guardrail system. OSHA believes that double chains 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."
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