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A ladder cage is a specialized shock-resistant encasement that is approximately 7 feet (2.134 meters) or greater in length. Extending slightly above the ladder, a ladder cage protects the person using a ladder in high places and may prevent that person from falling off. Ladder cages are most often used where very tall ladders, generally greater than 20 feet (6.096 meters), are needed, such as with water tanks, fire escapes, and towers.
Frequently built of metal or fiberglass, a ladder cage looks similar to a corset with a long narrow waist. Slightly wider at the mouth and base, the cage has vertical bars that create a round encasement, which makes a tube, called a well, around the ladder. The vertical bars are approximately 9 inches (22.86 centimeters) apart and supported by horizontal bands that are at least every 4 feet (1.219 meters) from each other. The back of the cage can be no greater than 30 inches (76.2 centimeters) from the center of the ladder's rungs. The cage is usually about 30 inches (76.2 centimeters) wide.
In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict standards to ensure the safety of those who use ladder cages. The base of the cage may begin 7 feet (2.134 meters) from the base of the ladder. It must extend roughly 3.5 feet (106.68 centimeters) from the top of the ladder, unless another safety feature such as a landing, is provided. An opening or gate must be at the top of the ladder cage.
No projections or items, such as boards or metal objects, may obstruct the interior of a ladder cage, and it must be free of obstructions for its user. A cage must be able to bear the weight of at least 200 pounds (90.71 kilograms) if someone falls backward against it. Cages that do not meet OSHA's strict requirements are not allowed to be used.
A ladder cage is an essential safety feature for people who climb tall ladders. It can prevent a person from falling backward or sideways off the ladder. If a person loses his or her grip or footing on the rung of a ladder or leans back too far, the cage may protect the person from falling off. A person may fall back but catch him- or herself, thus preventing an accident.
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