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.

May 16, 1989

Mr. LaRue Coleman, President
Jobs Building Services, Inc.
210 Drew
Houston, Texas 77006

Dear Mr. Coleman:

This is in response to your letter of September 13 ,1988, addressed to Mr. Gerald Baty, Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Houston Area Office concerning the "Sky Genie" device. Your letter was forwarded to this office for response. Please excuse the delay.

As you are aware, from your participation on the ANSI B39.1 committee, OSHA cannot enforce current industry consensus standards. The agency does, however, rely upon ANSI standards where we have no applicable standards for the purpose of identifying and correcting hazardous circumstances.

Workplace applications of the "Sky Genie" descent control device must be in compliance with the general requirements of OSHA's standards or in the absence of specific standards, must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the Act). In order to comply with the Act, the device shall not subject an employee to a recognized hazard which may cause serious injury or death.

The "Sky Genie" device is presently advertised as a variable descent system for work, escape and rescue. Unfortunately, the use of the "seatboard system" does not comply with any OSHA regulation or industry consensus standard. The "Sky Genie Seatboard System" should not be confused with a boatswain's chair system since it is not supported by block and tackle and is incapable of upward travel. For that reason, the OSHA standards at 29 CFR 1910.28(k) and 29 CFR 1926.451(l) pertaining to boatswain's chair are not directly applicable to the "Sky Genie" device but may be used as general guidelines for some applications of the device.

The "Sky Genie" can suffice as a personal fall protection device, if properly rigged, and can meet OSHA requirements for that function. In addition, the device appears to have application as an emergency escape system when used by trained and qualified personnel if it meets the OSHA requirements for emergency escape (See CFR 1910.272, Appendix A, 11, enclosed). A single "Sky Genie" system, without other equipment, would not meet the intent of the OSHA requirements as a suspended scaffold or a boatswain's chair.

As you are aware, on June 4, 1987, the American National Standards Institute, Inc. (ANSI), published a new safety standard for window cleaning. That new standard was developed by industry members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is identified as ANSI/ASME A39.1-1987.

The ANSI/ASME A39.1-1987 prohibits the use of emergency descent equipment (equipment which is operational in the down direction only) for window cleaning operations. Furthermore, that standard limits the maximum drop height for various fiber rope suspension systems. Based upon that new standard, OSHA believes that it is recognized by industry as a whole that emergency descent equipment is not appropriate for use as the primary support system for window cleaner workers. Therefore, employers may be found to be in violation of Section 5(a)(1) of the Act, copy enclosed, when window cleaners are using such prohibited equipment as the primary means of support.

Other applications of a "Sky Genie" system require alternative employee support via a completely independent support system. The use of twin lines with a single "Sky Genie" system (without other equipment) is unacceptable since a single failure of the device could cause a worker to fall. The employee would need to be provided with and use a properly rigged lifeline, lanyard, and body belt or harness, completely separate from and in addition to "Sky Genie" system components. The primary support line of the "Sky Genie" system components. The primary support line of the "Sky Genie" system must be correctly affixed to a support attachment and must be protected from potentially hazardous abrasion, especially at a parapet. The primary support system attachment hardware must be capable of not less than 4 times the working loads placed upon it, must not rely upon knots and must be augmented with a lifeline/bodybelt system capable of restraining a load of not less than 5400 pounds.

In addition, workplace systems of the "Sky Genie" type, even if used with other fall protection equipment, could be determined to present a serious hazard to employees if the drop height exceeds 75 feet. A portion of ANSI A39.1-1987 concerns this maximum drop height consideration.

If we can be further assistance, please contact [the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-1850].

Sincerely,

Patricia K. Clark, Acting Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 10/22/2004]