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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 https://www.osha.gov.
September 12, 1985
MEMORANDUM FOR: JOHN B. MILES, JR., Director Directorate of Field Operations FROM: LINDA R. ANKU Regional Administrator SUBJECT: Fall Protection for Employees Engaged in Erecting or Dismantling Scaffolds in the Construction Industry
This memorandum is in response to your August 2, 1985 letter concerning the possible exemption of fall protection for employees erecting or dismantling scaffolds in the proposed Subpart L.
As you probably are aware of, the Scaffold Industry Association (SIA) is strongly opposed to the use of safety belts and lifelines because the tie-in methods are not feasible and create a greater hazard because the line itself would be a tripping hazard. Rather, the SIA contends the ability to maintain balance without restrain, freedom of movement, awareness of the hazard, the use of experienced employees, safety training and supervision would provide the best employee protection.
Region III policy has been to require fall protection whenever employees are exposed to hazardous conditions meeting the criteria as defined in STD 3-3.1, entitled "Fall Protection in Construction: 29 CFR 1926.28 and 105(a)". A recent court case involving Spartan Rigging Corporation and Atlantic Rigging Corporation, as outlined in the Occupational Safety and Health Reporter, supports our position that OSHA require the use of guardrails or safety belts in dismantling scaffolds.
The Judge ruled that the industry's position does not apply in this case because of the great size of the scaffolding job and the fact that employees were located in fixed positions for extended periods of time. In summary, the Court decided that the absence of fall protection to employees working at intermediate levels of scaffolds posed a hazard capable of serious physical harm or death. Tying employees off could be achieved in a matter of seconds and the wearing of safety belts in dismantling of scaffolds was feasible and did not pose a greater hazard than not wearing them.
Preferably the language in the standard proposal would reflect current OSHA policy and more appropriate language (rather than the blanket exemption) would read--
"...allow employees engaged in erecting or dismantling scaffolds from using fall protection where it is either infeasible or its use creates a greater hazard to employees."
Those conditions where fall protection would be required could be outlined through a performance standard and standard interpretations.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our Technical Support Staff.