Top 3 Roof Access Ladder Considerations and OSHA Standards

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By Jessie Villanueva

roof access ladder

The importance of having secure and efficient roof access is something that can not be neglected especially in the dynamic industry of construction and real estate. Having a reliable roof access ladder is the doorway to discovering the potential of heightened areas. Today, I will give you a brief overview of roof access ladders, the choices and material options that are present, and what considerations you should make while choosing a perfect option as per OHSA standards to reach new heights.

Table of Contents

Introduction on Roof Access Ladder Considerations

When choosing a roof access ladder, there are 3 key considerations to keep in mind:

1. Material Type

Think about what the ladder is made of. Common materials include steel and aluminum, but there are alternatives like reinforced polymers or galvanized steel.

2. Duty Rating

Know the maximum load the ladder can handle. It’s not just about meeting OSHA requirements; it’s about ensuring it can handle your specific needs, going beyond the basics.

3. Maintenance Needs

Consider if the ladder treads require regular maintenance. Plan for solutions in case inspections reveal issues. Prioritize equipment that meets your needs over the long term.

roof access ladder
Retractable and fiberglass – An electrician’s ideal ladder. Photo Credit: Professional Electrician

Aluminum vs steel roof access ladder

I have discussed earlier that there are different materials for roof access ladders. However, aluminum and steel roof access ladders are most commonly used but choosing between the two can be a difficult task. So, now I’m going to help you so that you can choose wisely between the aluminum and steel roof access ladders.

Roof Safety & Compliance

To remain compliant with local safety guidelines, both materials are viable options. For steel ladders, adherence involves construction in line with safety regulations and the inclusion of corrosion-resistant protection. On the other hand, aluminum ladders naturally resist corrosion, eliminating the need for additional protective measures. Unlike steel counterparts, aluminum ladders spare you the task of periodic maintenance, such as reapplying protective layers or paint over the years.

Lead times

Lead times differ between steel and aluminum ladders. Steel ladders typically take longer due to the additional step of applying a protective coating. This coating process extends the time it takes to get your roof access ladder ready, posing a challenge for quick turnarounds in urgent safety situations.


From an installation point of view, an aluminum roof access ladder brings practical advantages. Thanks to its lightweight nature, aluminum ladders can be easily transported to the roof using the maintenance elevator, eliminating the need for cranes or disrupting building areas. This not only saves costs but also speeds up the installation process.

Compared to steel, aluminum’s lighter weight streamlines installation, reducing labor hours and overall costs. Additionally, aluminum fixed ladders exert less load on the wall and roof surfaces, eliminating the need for additional reinforcement often required with steel alternatives.

When it comes to achieving an exact fit, cutting aluminum on-site is a quick and straightforward process, ensuring efficient and precise installation.

Durability and maintenance

Steel roof access ladders are often seen as sturdier due to their weight, making them capable of withstanding significant force. However, this durability might be overkill for the ladder’s intended use. The heaviness of steel ladders poses challenges during installation and movement on the roof, often requiring additional hands or the rental of a costly crane.

One aspect we shouldn’t overlook is the regular maintenance required for steel ladders as compared to aluminum ladders. To preserve their appearance and structural integrity, steel ladders need consistent upkeep. Considering the corrosive impact of outdoor elements, especially in harsh winter conditions, maintaining the protective paint and coating becomes crucial. This annual maintenance can be a significant consideration for building owners and facility maintenance teams.

Aluminum vs Steel Roof Access Ladder– Which Is Better?

When deciding between aluminum and steel for your roof access ladder, safety is a top priority. Both materials meet safety standards, but if you’re aiming for a cost-effective, compliant solution, aluminum is the way to go. Its easy installation, flexible design, and lower overall costs make it excel in these crucial areas. Choosing aluminum ensures your ladder not only gets the job done but also meets today’s and tomorrow’s compliance requirements.

roof access ladder attached to building

When choosing a fixed roof access ladder, it’s crucial to prioritize compliance with OSHA standards. Here are key considerations:

Height and Breaks in Elevation:

  • Ladders are a must for elevation breaks of 19 inches or more.
  • Ensure unobstructed access points between levels or provide a second access point.

Rung and Step Specifications:

  • Maintain a space of 10 to 14 inches between rungs, cleats, and steps.
  • Slip-resistant rungs enhance safety.

Load Capacity:

  • Fixed ladders should support at least two 250-pound loads between any two attachments.

Landing Platforms:

  • Landing platforms must be installed at intervals not exceeding 50 feet, unless a ladder safety device is in place.

Extension and Fall Protection:

  • Ladders must extend a minimum of 42 inches above landings.
  • For ladders over 24 feet (installed before Nov 19, 2018), must be equipped with a fall arrest system, cage, or well. For those installed after, there must be a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system.

Changes After Nov 19, 2018:

  • For ladders over 24 feet installed after Nov 19, 2018, it is required to have a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system.
  • Note that cages are no longer considered fall protection for ladders installed after Nov 19, 2018.

Replacement Considerations:

  • When replacing ladder sections after Nov 18, 2018, install a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system in that section.
roof access ladder

Concluding Our Roof Access Ladder Discussion

Overall, choosing and deciding on a suitable ladder that complies with OHSA standards for your property will not only ensure efficiency, it also keep the safety factors in check. However, with many options available in the market, you might get confused. So, keep in mind all the points that I have explained to you while looking for an appropriate ladder. Also make sure that the ladder that becomes your choice, complies with OHSA standards and provides maximum safety.