Access ladders. This common means of access to different heights of rooftops has hidden dangers that can lead to severe consequences if an accident occurs.

Hazards of Access Ladders

Ladders are a common culprit for workplace accidents.  Climbing ladders is dangerous, especially when leading to greater heights. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published an article called ANSI/ASSE A1264 Addresses Safety for Workplace Surfaces. Here Brad Kelechava suggests that this problem is the responsibility of the building caretaker. The caretaker must manage these surfaces “so as to limit any types of falls.” If you are the caretaker of your rooftop surfaces, then this article is for you.


Patrick Michels of W.S. Safety says, “We have seen many situations of people walking side by side on the rooftop towards the ladder and then waiting in the hazard zone as one person descends the ladder. We have also observed situations where a person will place a tool bag or piece of equipment to the side of the ladder before descending and then overreach to retrieve it.


Fixed access ladders have been around since the invention of rooftops. They function to provide a safe means of getting tradespeople onto rooftops. Tradespeople are required to do a variety of tasks: initiate roof repairs, service HVAC systems and, more recently, access and maintain telecommunications equipment.

With fixed access ladders for buildings, the top of the ladder is the most hazardous area. By nature of its design the top of the ladder terminates at the roof edge. That puts persons at risk as they either step over the top of the ladder or approach the ladder on the back. The area on either side of the top of the ladder exposes the person to falling.

If the access ladder led to a roof hatch, once workers are on the rooftop, they could fall down into an open roof hatch when walking.

MOL Safety Requirements for Rooftop Safety

Although access ladders are a better alternative to portable extension ladders, a few additional safety measures should still be taken to remove or mitigate hazards. In light of these concerns, the Ontario Ministry of Labour gives six 'regulatory requirements' for fixed access ladders.

Regulatory Requirements for Fixed Access Ladders

An access ladder fixed in position shall:

(a) be vertical;

(b) have rest platforms at not more than 9-metre intervals;

(c) be offset at each rest platform;

(d) where the ladder extends over 5 metres above grade, floor or landing, have a safety cage commencing not more than 2.2 metres above grade and continuing at least 90 centimetres above the top landing with openings to permit access by a worker to rest platforms or to the top landing;

(e) have side rails that extend 90 centimetres above the landing; and

(f) have rungs which are at least 15 centimetres from the wall and spaced at regular intervals.

Roof Hatch Code Requirements

The Ontario Ministry of Labour in their Engineering Data Sheet (2014) states, “Roof access hatches served by fixed ladders shall be at least 550 mm by 900 mm on buildings of more than 3 storeys where the slope of the roof is less than 1-in-4.”

Fixed Ladder Fall Protection Requirements Should Matter to You Because:

  • You could be putting people’s safety at risk.
  • You could face severe fines if safety requirements are not followed.

Whether you are creating safety solutions for your building or for your roof hatch, we have products for you.

Vertical Access Ladders

  1. GrabSafe, a product that adds grab-bars to the top area of a ladder

Roof Hatch Access Ladders

  1. HatchGrip, a self-contained product that adds ladder rung continuation grips to the ladder that extend beyond the hatch opening
  2. HatchGuard, a self-contained product that encloses the hatch with a guardrail system and a safety gate, serving as passive fall protection

Conclusion

At W.S. Safety, our goal is to make every commercial rooftop we come in contact with as safe as possible.


Access ladders have hazards whether on the side of a building or leading up to a roof hatch. The Ontario Ministry of Labour has regulations to aid in the safety of these ladders. When you are looking for a safety solution for your access ladder, please contact us.


This article is based on the research and opinion of the writer and should not be used as legal advice.

Products Available to Make Your Ladder Safer