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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

February 18, 1992

                    Regional Administrator

THROUGH:            LEO CAREY, Director Office of Field Programs

FROM:               PATRICIA CLARK, Director Directorate of Compliance

SUBJECT:            Cardiovascular Stress and the use of Crane or Derrick
                    Suspended Personnel Platforms

This memorandum is in response to your January 14, 1992, memorandum on the above subject and will serve to confirm information provided to Messrs. T om Pope, John McFee, and Joe Crawford when they visited the National Office on January 27, 1992. Also in attendance at the January 27 meeting were Mr. Gerald Reidy and Mr. Ted Twardowski of the Office of Construction and Civil Engineering Safety Standards, Mr. Daniel Mick of the Office of the Solicitor, Dr. Mike Montopoli of the Directorate of Technical Support, and Mr. Roy Gurnham and Mr. Dale Cavanaugh of my staff in the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance.

At the meeting Mr. Pope stated that the deposition has been rescheduled for February 12, 1992. Your concerns were then addressed and the following answers developed:

  1. Exposure to cardiovascular stress is only one of many factors to be assessed when making the decision to use or not to use a crane- or derrick-suspended personnel platform (CDSPP). For example, another factor is whether or not other personnel are available to do the work. However, assuming for the sake of argument, that a particular employee has been thoroughly examined by a physician and a determination made by the physician that the employee should use a CDSPP because of cardiovascular risk, all other employees would still be required to use conventional means of access, such as stairs, thus minimizing the exposure to the hazards of using a CDSPP.
  2. An employer is not required by OSHA to make employees take rest breaks as they access elevated work stations by conventional means. However, rest platforms must be provided as required by OSHA in order to provide employees a place to rest when they so desire. As Dr. Montopoli pointed out, if an employee has been diagnosed as having a cardiovascular problem, the availability of rest platforms may not be sufficient to disallow the use of CDSPP for that individual. The total height of climb would also need to be evaluated.
  3. In order to make a determination of the risk of exposure to cardiovascular stress, the physician must examine each individual employee. Only those found to be at risk would be allowed to use a CDSPP (assuming, as stated in response 1. above, those individuals are needed to perform the task). The physician must be given complete and detailed information on the anticipated stress including, but not limited to, the number of steps, rate of ascent, frequency of ascent, weight of equipment, and any other factors the physician may deem necessary for a complete evaluation.
  4. Even if the examining physician determines that a particular employee would be subject to cardiovascular stress, the employer must consider whether reasonable changes can be made that will avoid the risk. For example, equipment can be hoisted rather than carried. Pre-planning and modification of work schedules can possibly reduce the number of ascents which an employee must make.
  5. Employers must endeavor to utilize employees who are not likely to be exposed to excessive risk of cardiovascular stress while accessing elevated work platforms only when the means of access poses such a threat. the use of an elevator, for example, would not require such a policy. However, this policy should not be used to require the hiring of new or replaced employees. On the other hand, employers should anticipate the need for climbing in their work when hiring new employees (including arrangements with hiring halls).

As stated in your memorandum and in the preamble to the rule, "employee safety, and not practicality or convenience must be the basis for the employer's choice of method [of access]." Employers need to be reminded that as a general rule, the practice of using a CDSPP is prohibited.

We are drafting a letter to McLean Construction Company that addresses these and other points. We will forward you a copy for review prior to mailing.