"We did it!" enthuses Mike Garl, chairman of the ESTA (Entertainment Services and Technology Association) Rigging Working Group. On September 16, the Board of Standards Review at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved the final action on accepting ESTA's Wire Rope Ladder Standard as an American National Standard. This substantially revised version of the ESTA Standard for Construction and Use of Wire Rope Ladders will be published as ANSI E1.1-1999, Entertainment Technology--Construction and Use of Wire Rope Ladders.

The new standard represents the culmination of roughly five years of work, which produced first the ESTA standard and now the American National Standard. "This is only the beginning," says Garl. "It has taken a while, but we are showing results. It is our commitment to the entertainment industry to put standards in place where none have existed before to keep our industry and workplaces safe."

ANSI E1.1-1999 is similar to the previous ESTA Standard for Construction and Use of Wire Rope Ladders (the older standard is being formally withdrawn). The ladders specified in the two standards are essentially the same, but the specifications for how the ladders shall be installed and used are different. The new standard also more carefully spells out when and where wire rope ladders are appropriate, and explains why, in these particular applications, conventional ladders with rigid rails are not appropriate.

The new American National Standard will be submitted to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as Cal/OSHA in Califor nia for possible regulatory adoption. Says Rocky Paulson, principal author of the standard and president of Stage Rigging, "When I brought up wire rope ladders, the Cal/OSHA fall protection specialist said that if he ever walked onto a job site and saw them, he would shut the place down. Wire rope ladders met no existing standard, therefore Cal/OSHA would deem them unsafe. He recommended we start writing standards ourselves. About that time the ESTA Technical Standards Program was forming. I took the project to Mike Garl and said, 'How about a nice simple standard to begin with?' and that's how it started."

Karl Ruling, ESTA's technical standards manager, explains, "Following the rules in our Policies and Procedures for Development and Approval of Technical Standards document certainly isn't a quick route, but it's what we have to do. I had to show ANSI how we dealt with every comment that came in from the public reviews of this document. It's a slow process, but I am confident that because of the process this document represents the best thinking in the industry on how to use these ladders safely."

"Literally one person a year in our industry was being killed in the United States from falling off wire rope ladders," says Paulson. "That's what got me on this long road of fall protection, wire rope ladders, and retractable life lines. In the last two or three years [since the publication of the ESTA standard] I haven't heard of any deaths, so maybe it's working. That's the good news."