Nine Compliance Hurdles Architects Need to Know – #5 Ladder Clearances: Toes and Cages

Getting up and down ladders is a matter of safety as much as access. One of the most important aspects of ladder design is making sure there is enough foot clearance on each rung to ensure people can navigate the ladder in as safe a way as possible.

This is another instance where the NZBC makes clear the distances required for best safety and usability. If you’re designing a rung-type ladder, D1 5.3.1-e-iv tells you the toe clearance to any wall or solid object behind the stair needs to be a minimum of 200mm.

The 200mm rule gives good space for the average foot. The rung is likely to fit into the nook of the sole right in front of the heel, which allows a healthy clearance to the toe even with heavy boots on.

Likewise, you need to allow plenty of space behind a user to allow them to climb ladders – with or without equipment – without knocking obstructions to the rear of them. Look up D1 5.3.1-e-i and you’ll see it defines the clearance as 750mm between the rungs and any obstruction behind the climber.

One way of achieving this back clearance is with a ladder cage, which will need to be 700-750mm from the rungs for a rectangular pattern or 750-800mm for a circular pattern design. This will give good clearance and reduce the chance of harm.

Ultimately, you want to minimise the chance of knocking something or having someone slip; when safety fails, it costs lives. Get it right and everyone’s safer.

Designing the best buildings can mean jumping through a lot of hoops, so download our full ebook to make sure you know your stuff when comes to architecture compliances.

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