While fixed ladders with cages were meant to provide fall protection, the reality is that fixed ladders with cages do not provide adequate fall protection!
Fall protection measures are always advancing and improving. Operating under the idea that every fall is preventable, fall safety protocols and equipment should not stop improving until there are no more fall accidents! Take fixed ladders with cages, for instance. Safety standards for fixed ladders with cages were implemented in the 1980s, but they have since been found to not provide adequate fall protection. This is why in 2018 OSHA changed the safety standard for fixed ladders with cages.
Fixed Ladders With Cages and Safety
Adding cages to fixed ladders was originally thought to increase the safety of the ladder for the workers using the ladder. The thinking was that the cage would keep a falling worker close enough to the ladder to be able to catch the ladder and prevent a fall. However, subsequent testing and anecdotal evidence have shown that cages on fixed ladders do not adequately protect workers from falling.
Research has shown that cages on fixed ladders protect workers to a small degree if their fall trajectory takes them backwards, but not at all if the fall trajectory is only downwards. Additionally, the bands of a cage present hazards to a falling worker because their limbs could strike the cages bands or become wedged within the cage bands, both of which could cause serious injury to the falling worker.
In 2018, OSHA updated the safety standards for fixed cages. 29 CFR 1910.28(b)(9)(i) requires, for fixed ladders that extend more than 24 feet above a lower level, “each fixed ladder installed before November 19, 2018, is equipped with a personal fall arrest system, ladder safety system, cage or well, and each fixed ladder installed after this date is equipped with a personal fall arrest system or a ladder safety system.”
All fixed ladders installed after November 19th, 2018, must have either a ladder safety system or a personal fall arrest system. Additionally, for those fixed ladders installed prior to the above date, whenever the cage or ladder requires replacement, a ladder safety system or a personal fall arrest system must be installed at that time. OSHA also mandated that all fixed ladders with cages must have a ladder safety system or a personal fall arrest system installed by November 19, 2036.