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Subpart M
Interpretations and Clarifications - Fall Protection


(29 CFR 1926.500-503)

The following questions and answers have been prepared to assist employers, employees, and compliance staff in determining what is required under the provisions of OSHA's recently revised requirement for fall protection in the construction industry.

The Interpretations and compliance direction in this packet have been approved by OSHA's Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance and will be considered the official compliance interpretation for all OSHA offices.

For further information contact:

Office of Construction and
Maritime Compliance Assistance
(202) 219-8136 or write:
U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room, N3610
Washington, DC 20210

February 1995

Interpretation M-1

Subject: §1926.500-Scope and Application.

Question: I deliver products to construction sites and sometimes am required to deliver the product to a location that is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels. Am I covered by Subpart M?

Answer: Yes, you are covered by Subpart M. Vendors and others are considered engaged in a construction activity when they deliver products or materials to the construction site that are used during the construction activity or when they are engaged in an activity that completes the construction work, such as final cleaning of buildings and structures. If the construction contractors picked up the products at the vendors outlet (store, warehouse, etc) the vendor would not be considered to be covered by this standard.

Basis for Decision: Review Commission cases on similar concerns.

Interpretation M-2

Subject: §1926.501(b)(1) - Unprotected sides and edges.

Question: I am a supplier of rooting materials. I deliver roofing materials to the job and place the material on the roof. What are my obligations?

Answer: Because your product will be used during the construction activity you will be required under Subpart M to protect your employees from falls of 6 feet or more to lower levels when possible. Therefore, employees must be provided with personal fall arrest equipment to attach to an anchor point if available. In the case of vendors delivering roofing materials, OSHA will require the following:

Gaining Access to the Roof: A handhold (rope, chain, or other railing) must be attached to the conveyer belt so that the employee has something to steady himself with as he gains access to the roof or a ladder must be used to gain access to the roof.

Distributing the Roofing Materials: Once on the roof the vendor's employee will receive the roofing products from a conveyor belt (lift truck or similar equipment) and then distribute the products onto the roof at various locations. During this distribution process,
OSHA will not require the vendor's employees to install an anchorage point for fall protection equipment regardless of the slope off the roof or the fall distance.

Basis for Decision: Delivering the materials directly to the roof eliminates hazards for other employees on the job who otherwise would have to move the materials from ground level to the roof. In recognition of this and in recognition that the roofing supplier will only be on the roof for a snort period of time and focused on one task, OSHA is issuing this compliance interpretation. However, if the contractor has a suitable anchorage point available for use by the vendor's employee, it should be used.

Interpretation M-3

Subject: §1926.502(d)(16) Personal fall arrest equipment

Question: The provision in §1926.502(d)(16) requires that free fall distance be limited to 6 feet. It is impossible to design an attachment point that will allow me to limit the free fall to 6 feet. What are my obligations?

Answer: §1926.502(d)(16) also requires that the maximum arresting force be limited to 900 pounds when the personal fall arrest system incorporates a body belt and 1800 pounds when the system incorporates a body harness. If the employer has documentation to demonstrate that these maximum arresting forces are not exceeded and that the personal fall arrest system will operate properly, OSHA will not issue a citation for violation of the free fall distance.

Basis for Decision: U.S. manufacturers of fall protection equipment test their equipment in accordance with test procedures prescribed in ANSI standards (ANSI A10.14 and ANSI Z359) which calls for equipment to be tested based on a 6 foot free fall distance. Unless the equipment has been tested for a free fall greater than 6 feet, the results are unknown. Therefore, if an employer must exceed the free fall distance, the employer must be able to document, based on test data, that the forces on the body will not exceed the limits established by the standard, and that the personal fall arrest system will function properly.

Interpretation M-4

Subject: §1926.501(b)(10), (b)(11), and (b)(13)

Question: I am a roofing contractor. I perform new work as well as reroofing or recovering work on homes. Which of the three roofing provisions apply to me.

Answer: Your work could fall into any one of the three provisions. The requirements of (b)(10) apply if tile work is on a low-slope roof (slope less than 4 in 12). The requirements of (b)(11) apply if the work is on a steep roof (slope greater than 4 in 12). In addition, because the roofing work is part of residential construction, you may be eligible to develop and implement a fall protection plan, outlining alternative provisions to those required in (b)(10) and (b)(11) if you can demonstrate that the systems required to be used by these other provisions are infeasible or create greater hazard. The following is provided for guidance:

If work on steep roofs involving application of hot or cold systems as sublayer, OSHA would permit the use of the more flexible fall protection systems specified for low-slope roofs (warning lines and safety monitor or safety monitor alone for roofs 50 feet or less in width) or other alternative systems.

If work on steep roofs involves installing shingles, OSHA would not accept alternative systems because there are many, inexpensive, easy to use fail protection systems available for use on steep roofs where shingles are to be installed. OSHA is unaware of any greater hazard or infeasibility concerns for this type of work, but OSHA would certainly be willing to revise this guidance if information is forthcoming to explain infeasibility/greater hazard concerns for steep roofs where shingles are installed.

Basis for Decision: OSHA explained in the preamble to Subpart M, the reasons it believed greater flexibility should be permitted when work was performed on low sloped roofs. These same arguments have surfaced with regard to
some roofing work on steep roofs. In particular, work that involves use of hot tar or glues as a base before applying the finish roof products. Because conventional systems may introduce new hazards or malfunction when hot tar and glue are used, OSHA will permit employers greater flexibility. There is no known basis for permitting greater flexibility when shingles are being installed.

Interpretation M-5

Subject: §1926.502(b)(5) Reinforcing steel and formwork.

Question: Am I required to be protected from falls at all times when climbing built-in place walls of reinforcing steel?

Answer: The standard allows employers to choose from safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or positioning device systems to protect employees on reinforcing steel. The employer may choose any one of the three systems. If the employer chooses positioning device systems, OSHA recognizes that it would not be possible to do the work - climb while carrying the rebar across the arms, and continually connect and disconnect positioning device systems (including rebar chain assemblies). Therefore, OSHA will not require continuous tie off, but will require employees to be tied off when they reach their work location. (See attached letters of interpretation).

Basis for Decision: Because the activity - climbing the reinforcing steel walls - similar to climbing a fixed ladder, OSHA will permit employees to climb the wall as high as 24 feet without continuous fall protection. This is the same requirement it imposes for employees climbing fixed ladders.

Interpretation M-6

Subject: §1926.502(h)- Safety Monitoring Systems

Question: The type of work I perform permits the use of a safety monitoring system. Must I hire someone whose only function is to serve as safety monitor or can any member of the work crew serve as the safety monitor.

Answer: Employers are not required to hire a person just to be the safety monitor. Any member of the crew could serve as the safety monitor as long as that person is a "competent person" and is not given duties that would prevent him or her from fulfilling their assignment as a safety monitor. There are several provisions under paragraph .502(h) with which the safety monitor must conform. In particular, the monitor must meet the definition of "competent person" which is as follows:

Competent person means one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.

Also, the monitor must be on the same level and be able to see and talk with the person(s) being monitored. The monitor must be able to see and communicate with "all" the employees being monitored. For example, the monitor cannot be on the first floor while the employees being monitored are on the fifth floor or on the roof. The monitor need only monitor employees while the employees are in the danger zone, on a flat roof, the danger zone is the area outside the warning line. For leading edge work, the danger zone is the entire controlled access zone. A monitor does not necessarily have a continuous function of monitoring. A member of the crew could be designated as the monitor and be called upon when needed, enabling the monitor to be fully engaged in other work when no monitoring function is needed. In some cases, two members of the crew may have to be trained as monitors so that if one monitor is unavailable, the other one can take over. If there are only two employees in the crew, one can be designated as the safety monitor. Monitors must be trained to take their function seriously since this is the least protective of all safety measures.

Basis for Decision: It reflects the intent of the Final Rule.

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