|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.
July 7, 2003
Brandon Construction Company
557 Alternate 19 North
Palm Harbor, FL 34683-4432
Re: Ladder jack scaffolds, fall protection, residential construction; §§1926.451(g), 1926.452(k), and 1926.500(a)(2)(i);
Dear Mr. Blackburn:
This is in response to your January 13, 2003, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding OSHA requirements for fall protection when ladder jack scaffolds are used. You ask about the applicable standards and alternatives available for residential construction work and commercial work. We apologize for the delay in providing this response.
We have paraphrased your questions as follows:
Question (1): At what height is fall protection required for employees working on ladder jack scaffolds? For workers on ladder jack scaffolds, are alternatives to the conventional fall protection allowed in residential construction work and commercial work?
Where applicable, 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart M (§§1926.500-1926.503) requires fall protection in residential construction beginning at 6 feet:
§1926.501 Duty to have fall protection.
(b) * * *
(13) Residential construction. Each employee engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. . .
However, under §1926.500(a)(2)(i), the fall protection requirements of the scaffold standard (Part 1926 Subpart L), rather than those of Subpart M, apply to workers on scaffolds:
§1926.500 Scope, application, and definitions applicable to this subpart.
(a) Scope and application. (1) This subpart sets forth requirements and criteria for fall protection in construction workplaces covered under 29 CFR Part 1926. Exception: The provisions of this subpart do not apply when employees are making an inspection, investigation, or assessment of workplace conditions prior to the actual start of construction work or after all construction work has been completed.
(2) Section 1926.501 sets forth those workplaces, conditions, operations, and circumstances for which fall protection shall be provided except as follows:
(i) Requirements relating to fall protection for employees working on scaffolds are provided in Subpart L of this Part. [Emphasis added.] * * * *
Section 1926.451(g)(1) requires workers on ladder jack scaffolds to be protected by a personal fall arrest system at heights of over 10 feet:
§1926.451 General requirements. * * * *
(g) Fall protection.
(1) Each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet (3.1 m) above a lower level shall be protected from falling to that lower level. Paragraphs (g)(1)(i) through (vii) of this section establish the types of fall protection to be provided to the employees on each type of scaffold. Paragraph (g)(2) of this section addresses fall protection for scaffold erectors and dismantlers. Note to paragraph (g)(1): The fall protection requirements for employees installing suspension scaffold support systems on floors, roofs, and other elevated surfaces are set forth in Subpart M of this Part.
(i) Each employee on a boatswains' chair, catenary scaffold, float scaffold, needle beam scaffold, or ladder jack scaffold shall be protected by a personal fall arrest system; [Emphasis added.]
* * * *
OSHA's compliance directive STD 3-0.1A permits the use of certain alternatives to conventional fall protection for some specific work activities in residential construction (discussed in Question (3) below). However, that compliance directive addresses the fall protection requirements in Subpart M, not Subpart L. Since, under §1926.500(a)(2)(i), it is the fall protection requirements of Subpart L that apply to workers on ladder jack scaffolds, the alternative fall protection methods specified in STD 3-0.1A are not available with respect to workers on ladder jack scaffolds.
Question (2): Are there rules against using ladder jack scaffolds over 20 feet?
Yes. Section 1926.452(k)(1) states:
(k) Ladder jack scaffolds. (1) Platforms shall not exceed a height of 20 feet (6.1 m).
* * * * * *
Therefore, workers are prohibited from being on a ladder jack platform over 20 feet high. This limitation applies in both residential and non-residential construction.
Question (3): For workers who are NOT on scaffolds, are alternative fall protection methods allowed to be used in residential and commercial construction? Is there a height limit for use of such methods?
Under STD 3-0.1A, specific alternatives to conventional fall protection for some activities are allowed to be used in residential construction (copy enclosed). STD 3-0.1A applies only to residential construction. The height limit for application of STD 3-0.1A is 48 feet.
If the residential work that you are doing is not within the scope of STD 3-0.1A, [I]n some circumstances you may be able to use alternative fall protection measures where you can demonstrate that conventional fall protection is infeasible. Section 1926.501(b)(13) states:
[This document was edited on 12/5/2012 to strike information that no longer reflects current OSHA policy referencing STD 3-0.1A.]
(b) * * *
(13) Residential construction. Each employee engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of §1926.502. Note: There is a presumption that it is feasible and will not create a greater hazard to implement at least one of the above-listed fall protection systems. Accordingly, the employer has the burden of establishing that it is appropriate to implement a fall protection plan which complies with §1926.502(k) for a particular workplace situation, in lieu of implementing any of those systems. * * * * *
So, if you can demonstrate that conventional fall protection is infeasible, you may implement alternative procedures in a fall protection plan that complies with the requirements of §1926.502(k).
As noted in §1926.502(k), the fall protection plan alternative is only available to employees:
. . .engaged in leading edge work, precast concrete erection work, or residential construction work (See §1926.501(b)(2), (b)(12), and (b)(13)) . . .
So, in non-residential work covered by Subpart M,1 use of alternative fall protection through a fall protection plan is allowed only in leading edge work and precast concrete erection work. Note that §1926.500 defines leading edge activity in terms of a structural surface that forms an edge that advances/changes as additional sections are installed:
The edge of a floor, roof or formwork for a floor or other walking/working surface (such as the deck) which changes location as additional floor, roof, decking or formwork sections are place, formed or constructed. A leading edge is considered to be an 'unprotected side and edge' during periods when it is not actively and continuously under construction.
If you need any additional information, please contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance, fax # 202-693-1689. You can also contact us by mail at the above office, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, although there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.
Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction
1The fall protection requirements for steel erection are in §1926.760.. [back to text]