Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

May 16, 1991

Mr. John A. Schueller
Civil Engineer
545 Ridgeway Road
Lake Oswego, Oregon 97034

Dear Mr. Schueller:

Thank you for your letter of February 1, 1991, concerning the use of link chains as lanyards and the general contractor's responsibility to supply safety nets to protect his workers. Please excuse the delay in response.

We note that you are from Oregon and are licensed in California. Both of these States operate under State Plan agreements with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), therefore, you should also check their regulations as our Federal requirements may not be as extensive as their State Plan requirements. State regulations must be at least as effective as Federal regulations, however they can be more stringent.

In your letter you ask three questions:

1. "......if these OSHA standards were in effect in Dec. '85, and Dec. '88."? (This question relates to the fall protection requirements.)

2. "May lanyards include link chains to connect clasps etc., rather than those called out on Section 1910 (1926)?"

3. "Is it mandatory for the general contractor to supply & install safety nets wherever it is practical to do so, to protect his workers?"

In reply to your first question, the OSHA standard, 29 CFR 1926.104, safety belts, lifelines, and lanyards, has been continuously in effect since May 29, 1971.

In reply to your second question, link chains should not be used as safety lanyards, or in place of the required hardware as called for in 29 CFR 1926.104(e) and (f). However, should a chain be used as a lanyard it would be required to meet the tensile load requirement of 4000 pounds as specified for all safety belt and lanyard hardware (Ref. 29 CFR 1926.104(f)). Additionally, such chains would be required to meet the hardware specifications of 29 CFR 1926.104(e).

Although the tensile load requirement specified for hardware is 4000 pounds and appears to be less than the lanyard requirement of 5400 pounds, it is not. Hardware is required to possess a yield strength of 4000 pounds while lanyards are required to possess an ultimate strength of 5400 pounds. (As you may recall, the ultimate strength of a material is that load at which the material fails (breaks), while the yield strength is the load at which, if exceeded, the material will take a permanent set or deformation. The values of yield or ultimate strength of a material differ significantly, but are both physical characteristics of any material.) A forged steel chain having a yield strength of 4000 pounds would have an ultimate strength of more than 5700 pounds and would be more than equivalent to the minimum lanyard requirement specified by the standard.

The standard at 29 CFR 1926.104 does not prohibit the use of a chain as a lanyard, however, OSHA discourages such an application of chain. Should a workers fall be arrested by a chain, maximum arresting forces would be experienced by the individual and it can be anticipated that the individual is likely to suffer serious injuries.

In reply to your third question, it is not specifically mandated that general contractors supply and install safety nets. It is mandatory that contractors (employers) provide fall protection devices and/or equipment whenever and wherever employees are exposed to fall hazards. The use of safety nets is only one of a number of available options for fall protection that can be used (e.g., standard guardrails, safety lines and safety belts, catch platforms, etc.). However, it is mandatory to use safety nets when working at elevations of more than 25 feet above ground, water, or other surface where it is impractical to use ladders, scaffolds, catch platforms, temporary floors, safety lines, or safety belts (29 CFR 1926.105(a)). A copy of the standard is enclosed.

General contractors are responsible for assuring that appropriate fall protection is used at sites under their control. However, OSHA regulations do not mandate who is responsible for the installation of special equipment (e.g., catch platforms or safety nets, etc.). The designation of the responsible party or parties is a responsibility of the general contractor.

If we may be of further assistance, please contact us.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs