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Gates instead of chains for ladder protection

Oklahoma workers who use ladders to perform tasks should know that proper fall protection entails the use of a gate, not chains. This is according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In order to secure a chain, and with his or her back to the hazard, a worker has to stand on the ladder and use one hand to reattach the chain. Instead of forcing workers into a dangerous situation, the use of a gate that automatically closes itself will always protect the worker and the opening and remove any risks of user error.

The common belief that chains are adequate fall protection measures for ladders is due to a 1982 letter of interpretation that was issued by OSHA. In its letter, the agency stated that chains were adequate replacements for gates if the chains provided protection that was at least as effective as a swinging gate. After the letter was issued, the manufacturers of building equipment that required gates began to use chains instead of gates to save on costs. The use of the chains eventually became routine.

However, when discussing its new rule pertaining to walking-working surfaces and fall protection, OSHA asserted that double chains do not provide the complete fall protection workers need when they are near hole entrances. The agency stated that as a result, it adopted the requirements that self-closing gates be used at entrances to ladderways and platform holes or be offset in order to protect workers from falling.

The use of ladders that do not have the appropriate protection measures according to federal workplace safety standards may contribute to work-related injuries. When a company has willfully disregarded these requirements, an attorney for an injured employee might determine that, in lieu of seeking workers' compensation benefits, a lawsuit should be filed against the employer.

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