Does "Subpart X - Stairways and Ladders" Apply to You?

Subpart X applies to all stairways and ladders used in construction, alteration, repair (including painting and decorating), and demolition workplaces and whenever ladders and stairways are required to be provided. According to scope, application and definitions applicable to this subpart, additional requirements for ladders used on or with scaffolds are contained in subpart L - scaffolds. This subpart does not apply to integral components of equipment covered by subpart CC - cranes and derricks as subpart CC exclusively sets forth the circumstances when ladders and stairways must be provided on cranes and derricks. Appendix A for this subpart provides consensus standards related to ladders.

This subpart applies to most employers as most employees will use ladders and stairways during construction work. Do your employees use ladders or stairways? If yes, then this subpart applies to you. The standard on general requirements provides requirements for stairways or ladders to be provided at personnel points of access, not using spiral stairways that are not a permanent part of the structure, use of double-cleated ladders, keeping points of access clear, and using stairway and ladder fall protection systems. The subpart also provides specific standards for stairways and ladders used during construction activity along with training requirements. Click on the appropriate tabs below for more information. 

Some definitions applicable to this subpart include:

Double-cleat ladder - A ladder similar in construction to a single-cleat ladder, but with a center rail to allow simultaneous two-way traffic for employees ascending or descending.

Point of access - All areas used by employees for work related passage from one area or level to another. Such open areas include doorways, passageways, stairway openings, studded walls, and various other permanent or temporary openings used for such travel.

Spiral stairway - A series of steps attached to a vertical pole and progressing upward in a winding fashion within a cylindrical space.

Additional information can be found on the A-Z safety and health topics pages for stairways and ladders, scaffolds, and cranes and derricks.

Subpart X - Stairways and Ladders

Are employees using stairways during construction work?

Are employees using stairways during construction work?

If yes, then you need to comply with the standard on for stairways. It includes general requirements (i.e., landings, horizontal degrees, riser height, tread depth, hazardous projections, slippery conditions), and those pertaining to temporary service. It also provides specific requirements for stairrails and handrails along with following the criteria for guardrail systems for unprotected sides and edges for stairway landings found in subpart M - fall protection.

Handrail - A rail used to provide employees with a handhold for support.

Riser height - 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.

Stairrail system - 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 stairrail system may also be a "handrail."

Tread depth - The horizontal distance from front to back of a tread (excluding nosing, if any).

Unprotected sides and edges - Any side or edge (except at entrances to points of access) of a stairway where there is no stairrail system or wall 36 inches (.9 m) or more in height, and any side or edge (except at entrances to points of access) of a stairway landing, or ladder platform where there is no wall or guardrail system 39 inches (1 m) or more in height.

You will also need to comply with the standard on training requirements. This standard provides for a training program for each employee using ladders and stairways to ensure employees are able to recognize hazards related to ladders and stairways. It requires training by a competent person on procedures to be followed, specific training topics, and when retraining is required. 

Additional information can be found on the A-Z safety and health topics pages for stairways and ladders

Are employees using ladders during construction work?

Are employees using ladders during construction work?

If yes, then you need to comply with the standard on ladders as it applies to all ladders including job-made ladders. It provides general requirements (i.e., including metal, wood, extension, self-supporting, not self-supporting, portable, fixed) pertaining to supporting the load, maximum intended loads, clearance distances, ladder components, warning labels, coatings, splicing, ladder safety devices, rest platforms, self-retracting lifelines, cages and wells, being free of projections, side rails, and rungs and steps. It also provides the requirements regarding use including extending three feet above upper landing surface, being free of slipping hazards, maximum intended loads, used only for intended design or purpose, angle of use, having slip-resistant feet, top and bottom of ladder kept clear, having non-conductive siderails, inspections conducted by competent person, not using defective ladders (i.e., withdrawing from service, tagging, repair), ascending and descending ladders (i.e., facing the ladder, keeping one hand on ladder), and carrying loads on ladder. 

Double-cleat ladder - A ladder similar in construction to a single-cleat ladder, but with a center rail to allow simultaneous two-way traffic for employees ascending or descending.

Extension trestle ladder - 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 - 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.

Job-made ladder - 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.

Portable ladder - A ladder that can be readily moved or carried.

You will also need to comply with the standard on training requirements. This standard provides for a training program for each employee using ladders and stairways to ensure employees are able to recognize hazards related to ladders and stairways. It requires training by a competent person on procedures to be followed, specific training topics, and when retraining is required. 

Additional information can be found on the A-Z safety and health topics pages for stairways and ladders