Some Minnesota employees often have to use ladders to complete their tasks below them. However, they should make sure that the ladders they use have gates instead of chains as a protective mechanism against falling.

The primary issue with using a chain for fall protection on a ladder is that the chain is unable to close itself. Reattaching a chain requires the worker to stand on the ladder and use one hand to secure the chain while the back of the worker is facing the hazard. Gates that are able to close on their own eliminate user error and always protect the opening.

Much of the confusion regarding the need for gates can be traced back to a letter of interpretation that was issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1982. According to the letter, chains are a viable replacement for a gate if the chains are able to provide a measure of protection that is at least as effective as a swinging gate. In response, many manufacturers who produced building equipment that required gates began using chains to reduce their expenses. The use of the chains instead of gates eventually became customary.However, when discussing its new rule from November of 2016 regarding walking-working surfaces and fall protection, OSHA stated that double chains do not provide the full fall protection workers need at hole entrances. Because of this, the agency asserts that gates should be on all ladders.

Individuals who sustain workplace injuries because the ladders they used did not have the appropriate safety measures should consult with an attorney. Although workers’ compensation benefits may be available, situations where an employer willfully disregarded safety protocols might lead to the filing of a personal injury lawsuit instead of a workers’ compensation claim.