Simplifying the new OSHA safety gate standard

AUGUST 17, 2020

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published the newly revised Walking-Working Surfaces standard at the end of 2016, and it went into effect Jan. 17, 2017. While this standard (OSHA 1910.29) is more specific about swing-gate requirements at the top of ladderway openings, like the previous standard (OSHA 1910.23), pieces have to be collected from different sections to get a full understanding of what is required. Instead of going through all the verbiage, this article simplifies it through images.

If your walking-working surface is elevated more than 4 feet off the ground, your guide to the newly revised OSHA standard is below.

While these illustrations do not include every possibility of what is out there, they do give a good idea of what to look for when replacing and/or purchasing new safety gates. Besides what is illustrated, an additional key feature to note is the gate must be self-closing. This is important because the previous standard only required that it be a swinging gate.

The newest OSHA revisions include the following criteria for OSHA 1910.29 (b): “Fall protection systems and falling object protection — criteria and practices.” The employer must ensure guardrail systems meet the following requirements:

  • (13)(i) Has a self-closing gate that slides or swings away from the hole, and is equipped with a top rail and mid-rail, or equivalent intermediate member, that meets the requirements in paragraph (b) of this section; or (13)(ii) is offset to prevent an employee from walking or falling into the hole.
  • (2)(i) Mid-rails are installed at a height midway between the top edge of the guardrail system and the walking-working surface.
  • (2)(iv) Other equivalent intermediate members, such as additional mid-rails and architectural panels, are installed so that the openings are not more than 19 inches (48 centimeters) wide.

To provide even more insight, below is a simplified list of some key areas to focus on when evaluating your current conditions. These can be used to help you determine the appropriate course of action in and around any holes, openings or current access points with or without safety gates.

OSHA’s standard requires that a safety gate:

  • Must be self-closing.
  • Must either slide or swing away from the hole.
  • Must be equipped with top rails and mid-rails, or equivalent intermediate members, that meet the requirements in final paragraph (b)(13)(i).
  • Must have a top rail height of 42 inches, plus/minus 3 inches.
  • May not contain an opening greater than 19 inches in the least dimension.
  • Must be able to withstand a 200-pound load (top rail) and 150-pound load (mid-rail). So what exactly do the new revisions mean regarding the use of safety gates? What should you look for when reviewing your current safe access/fall protection configuration?

For example, if you are currently using chains, single-bar or drop-bar style gates in an access point or opening, they are no longer compliant and need to be replaced. Rusted spring-closing or compression gates no longer capable of self-closing will need repair or replacement. Gravity-closing gates can no longer be held open with bungee cords to prevent self-closure.

Start auditing walking-working surface compliance today. It’s cheaper than letting OSHA do it for you.

This is not acceptable in the ladder opening.

This is acceptable in the ladder opening.

The latest OSHA revisions include the following criteria for OSHA 1910.29: “Fall protection systems and falling object protection — criteria and practices.” The employer must ensure guardrail systems meet the following requirements:

  • (13)(i) Has a self-closing gate that slides or swings away from the hole, and is equipped with a top rail and mid-rail, or equivalent intermediate member, that meets the requirements in paragraph (b) of this section; or (13)(ii) is offset to prevent an employee from walking or falling into the hole.
  • (2)(i) Mid-rails are installed at a height midway between the top edge of the guardrail system and the walking-working surface.
  • (2)(iv) Other equivalent intermediate members, such as additional mid-rails and architectural panels, are installed so that the openings are not more than 19 inches (48 centimeters) wide.

Click here to learn more about OSHA’s current walking-working surfaces standard.

For more information regarding this new standard, visit www.intrepidindustries.com or www.osha.gov, call (281) 479-8301 or email Paxton Guidroz at pguidroz@intrepidindustries.com.