|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.
March 20, 2010
Letter # 20090601-9068
Re: Whether OSHA standards require employees to be tied off while working over water on an aerial lift.
Question: My company requires employees working from an aerial boom lift to wear a harness, lanyard and life vest while working over land near water. While working in an aerial lift over water they would be allowed to unhook their lanyard from the aerial lift. If personnel exit the boom lift onto a structure over water, they are required to use fall protection (i.e. a personal fall arrest system) pursuant to Subpart M while working on the structure over water, in addition to wearing a life vest. Does 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)(v) permit employees working on an aerial lift over water to wear life vests and a personal fall arrest system that is not attached to the boom or basket?
Answer: Yes. When an employee is working from an aerial lift, the fall protection requirement under 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)(v) applies, which provides:
A body belt shall be worn and a lanyard attached to the boom or basket when working from an aerial lift.
NOTE TO PARAGRAPH (b)(2)(v): As of January 1, 1998, subpart M of this part (§1926.502(d)) provides that body belts are not acceptable as part of a personal fall arrest system. The use of a body belt in a tethering system or in a restraint system is acceptable and is regulated under §1926.502(e).
There is no language in either 1926.453(b)(2)(v) or the relevant preamble to Subpart L that specifically addresses how this provision applies when employees are working above water.
As your letter points out, Subpart N, section 1926.550(g)(6)(vii), Cranes and Derricks, allows employees working on a personnel platform over water to unhook their lanyard from its anchor point. Similarly, the proposed Cranes and Derricks standard permits the same practice.1 As the preamble to the proposed Cranes and Derricks rule explains, "a personal fall arrest system would not be required because in the event that an error occurred that resulted in the employees being in the water, being tied-off would exacerbate the drowning hazard."2 The same rationale applies for employees working on an aerial lift over water because a similar potential error exists that could expose employees to the same drowning hazard. Therefore, OSHA considers it a de minimis violation of 1926.453(b)(2)(v) where employees on an aerial lift who are wearing a harness, lanyard, and a life vest unhook their lanyard from the boom or basket while working above water. In light of this de minimis policy, the procedures you described in your letter are acceptable.
Richard E. Fairfax, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction
1 See 73 Federal Register 59941, §1431(k)(10(i). [back to text]
2 See 73 Federal Register 59836. [back to text]