top NYC maritime attorneysLadders, steps, and gangways cause countless injuries and deaths on the water every year. Since these access points are vital to the operation of a ship, any defective ladders or stairways could make the vessel unseaworthy.

Global Safety Standards for Stairs and Ladders on Vessels

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has created a number of safety standards for ladders and steps on a variety of vessels. The IMO specifies guidelines for:

  • Portable ladders. Free-standing portable ladders must not be over 5 meters long, built to be adequate and strong enough for the job, and used at an angle between 60 and 75 degrees from horizontal.
  • Hatches and openings. Ladders that provide access to elevated passageways or vertical openings from the vessel’s bottom must have easily accessible passageways, ladders, or treads. Treads must have lateral support for feet, and permanent ladders must be inclined at an angle of less than 70 degrees to prevent falls.
  • Signage and markings. All ladders and gangways must be clearly marked with the maximum safe loading limit and maximum permitted angle of use. The safe loading limit warning should include both the total of persons the equipment can accommodate and the total maximum weight.
  • Construction. Ladders, steps, and gangways must be made from sound materials with adequate strength to support crew members (such as steel or similar compounds). Ladders and handrails must be secured to decks and superstructures. Any flights of ladders must not be longer than 9 meters in length, and include resting platforms to prevent injury.
  • Caution. Seamen must be trained to use all means of access (such ladders and steps), with care. This includes crew safety training to warn against exceeding weight limits of ladders and gangways or using unsafe means of access.
  • Maintenance. All access equipment must be free from any noticeable defects, properly maintained, and inspected regularly. Ladders, steps, and other means of access must not be painted in a way that hides cracks, corrosion, or other defects.

A maritime employer who did not follow these guidelines or take action to replace a defective ladder could be found negligent. If you or someone you love has been hurt at sea, the maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can explain your next steps and what you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.