2006 - 02/27/2006 - Fall protection and aerial lifts in the Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution industries.
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
February 27, 2006
Mr. Ryan Wilson
47 Lake Street
Auburn, ME 04210
Dear Mr. Wilson:
Thank you for your November 29, 2004 fax to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Office of General Industry Enforcement. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. You had specific questions regarding fall protection and aerial lifts in the Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution industries.
The questions below have been restated for clarity.
Question 1a: Can a body harness with a self-retracting lanyard be used in an aerial lift with a waist high anchor point when the manufacturer of the fall arrest system requires the retractor to attach to an overhead anchor point?
Question 1b: Some of our workers are allowed to use body belts with a 2 foot lanyard while working from the basket of an aerial lift, while others are not. Can workers choose a restraint device, a device that prevents employees from falling from the basket, instead of a fall arrest device for personal fall protection when working in an aerial lift?
Question 1c: Does OSHA require employees working from the basket of an aerial lift to use a lanyard and body belt?
Response: Because of design limitations with respect to aerial lifts, no system is ideal. The standard for aerial lifts, 29 CFR 1910.67, requires employees working from the basket of an aerial lift to be tied off with a body belt and lanyard attached to the boom or basket. OSHA would accept, as equivalent protection, use of a fall arrest system that complies with the proposed Subpart I standards for fall protection published in the April 10, 1990, Federal Register (55 FR 13360). We are enclosing for your information a copy of a letter to Mr. Steven Claypool, February 18, 1999, which addresses the use of personal fall arrest systems in the construction context.
Question 2: The manufacturer of the self-retracting lifeline has placed a "maximum fall arrest distance" on the name-plate of the device. Should this distance be used to calculate the "Total Fall Distance" of the fall arrest system?
Response: The term "total fall distance" means the distance an employee would fall before being fully stopped. However, because the term "maximum fall arrest distance" is not used in the OSHA standards for fall protection, we recommend that you contact the manufacturer for information regarding this term.
Question 3a: If two workers were to fall simultaneously from an aerial lift, would the boom support the impact loading of the two falling workers?
Question 3b: How do you calculate the boom sway and sag to add to the total fall distance during a fall?
Question 3c: Our company requires employees to use fall arrest systems. These systems use a self-retracting lanyard with an anchor point at the employee's feet. Is this acceptable?
Question 3d: Should we attach the fall arrest equipment overhead as the manufacturer recommends?
Response: There is not enough information for us to answer these questions. The system in question may not be acceptable; specific circumstances would determine whether the system meets OSHA standards. For example, fall arrest equipment attached to an anchor point at an employee's feet may cause the fall to exceed the maximum allowed fall distance or free fall distance, and may also cause the system to exceed the maximum allowed arresting force. However, the system could be designed such that these factors are not exceeded during a fall. We suggest you contact the manufacturers of the boom and the fall protection equipment for more information.
Question 4: Subpart M, §1926.502(a)(2) reads: "Employers shall provide and install all fall protection systems required by this subpart for an employee, and shall comply with all other pertinent requirements of this subpart before that employee begins the work that necessitates the fall protection." Does this mean that an employer should provide guardrails and body belts with a lanyard in addition to fall arrest equipment?
Response: No. The employer is required to protect employees from falls. However, it is usually necessary to provide only one form of fall protection.
Question 5: What training is required for set-up and use of portable scaffolds?
Response: There are several types of portable scaffolds. According to your telephone conversation with the Office of General Industry Enforcement on January 7, 2005, the scaffolding described could be tubular welded frame scaffolding or a mobile scaffold using tubular welded frames. The general industry standard for scaffolding, §1910.28, has no specific requirements for training, but §1910.28(d)(12) provides that only competent and experienced employees may erect tubular welded frame scaffolds.
Question 6: What fall protection is required on portable scaffolds?
Response: For the types of portable scaffolds described above, employees must be protected through the use of proper guardrails. See §1910.28(d)(7) and §1910.29(a)(3)(vii).
Question 7: The calculated fall distance for the fall arrest system used on the portable staging could allow a falling employee to hit the ground. Is this acceptable?
Response: No. Fall arrest equipment is required to prevent employees from contacting obstructions, the ground or another level.
Question 8: Are toe boards as well as ladders with the correct rung spacing required on portable scaffolds?
Response: Toeboards are required on all open sides on scaffolds more than 10 feet above the ground, as required by §1910.28(d)(7) and §1910.29(a)(3)(vi). Access ladders are required by §1910.28(a)(12) and §1910.29(a)(3)(viii). These ladders must meet the requirements of §1910.25, §1910.26 or §1910.27, depending on the type of ladder used to access the scaffolding.
Question 9: What training is required for fall protection and associated rescue under §1910.269?
Response: §1910.269(a)(2) requires that employees be trained in and familiar with safety-related work practice safety procedures, and other safety requirements that pertain to their respective job assignments, including applicable emergency procedures (such as pole top and manhole rescue) that are not specifically addressed by the standard but that are related to their work and are necessary for their safety.
Question 10: What training is required when fall protection is used on aerial lifts, portable scaffolds, and walking and working surfaces?
Response: There are no specific training requirements for the use of fall protection under §1910.67, or Subpart D, Walking and Working Surfaces. As a general matter, however, the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act requires employers to exercise reasonable diligence in preventing, or detecting and correcting, unsafe working conditions. Reasonable diligence includes appropriate training and supervision but will vary depending on the circumstances. Employees using fall protection equipment should be familiar with the proper inspection, care, use and any limitations of the specific fall protection equipment being used.
Question 11: Who determines which fall protection system can be used safely to perform work at the site? Can this person be located off-site?
Response: OSHA standards that allow an employer to choose between several different forms of fall protection do not specifically identify who can make the determination. As a general matter, however, the OSH Act requires employers to exercise reasonable diligence in preventing, or detecting and correcting, unsafe working conditions. Reasonable diligence includes appropriate training and supervision but will vary depending on the circumstances. Allowing an off-site individual to evaluate and select a fall protection method may or may not be consistent with the obligation to exercise reasonable diligence.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs