Falls in the workplace account for significant numbers of deaths and injuries each year in the U.S. Workplace falls usually involve:
- roofs and roof openings, and
- walkway or surface area trip and falls or slip and falls.
In Pennsylvania, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations apply to construction sites and other workplaces. Ladder accidents typically involve not only OSHA regulations, but also Pennsylvania products liability laws related to defective design, defective manufacture or failure to warn. Below are some common OSHA requirements related to use of defective ladders in the workplace.
OSHA Requirements for Defective Ladders
OSHA rules apply to all ladders used in construction, alteration, repair, and painting at most work sites. As a general rule, OSHA applies to the majority of construction and remodeling jobs. OSHA does not however apply to self-employed persons.
Defective ladders are subject to the following OSHA rules:
- Defective portable ladders with structural defects, such as broken or missing rungs, cleats or steps, broken or split rails, or other faulty or defective components, must immediately be marked defective or tagged with “Do Not Use” or similar language and withdrawn from service until repaired.
- Fixed ladders with structural defects, such as broken or missing rungs, cleats or steps, broken or split rails or corroded components, must be withdrawn from service until repaired.
- Defective fixed ladders are considered withdrawn from use when they are immediately tagged with “Do Not Use” or similar language, or marked in a manner that identifies them as defective.
- Ladder repairs must restore the ladder to a condition meeting its original design criteria before the ladder is returned to use.
Defective ladders are not the only cause of workplace ladder falls. There are many other causes of workplace ladder falls, such as:
- use of single rail ladders,
- failure to inspect ladders prior to use,
- exceeding the maximum intended load beyond the manufacturer’s rated capacity,
- use of ladders on slippery surfaces,
- use of ladders with worn steps, and
- use of ladders without nonconductive side rails, which increases chances of exposure to electrical equipment.
Under the laws of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, ladder accidents may result in liability of any number of parties, depending on the type of workplace. These are known as third party claims or claims against non-employers. In cases of an accident caused by a defective ladder, contractors, subcontractors, ladder manufacturers, and distributors may be liable. These claims would be made in addition to, or on top of, the workers’ compensation claim.
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