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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

September 18, 1992

Mr. Mark W. Monson
Manager of Projects
Chicagoland Construction
Safety Council
4415 West Harrison Street,
Suite 403
Hillside, Illinois 60162

Dear Mr. Monson:

This is in response to your April 1 letter requesting interpretations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards addressing fall protection during steel erection and the applicability of 29 CFR 1926 Subpart B to the construction industry. I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry.

The steel erection standard at 1926.750(b)(2)(i), which requires a tightly planked and substantial floor within two stories or 30 feet, whichever is less, below structural steel workers, addresses only falls to the interior of the structure. Fall hazards to the outside of a structure, therefore, may be cited under 1926.105(a) provided that the fall distance is greater than 25 feet. If the fall distance is less than 25 feet, exterior fall hazards can be cited under the general duty clause (Section 5(a)(1)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, if OSHA can establish the following four elements: (1) the workplace was not free of a hazard, (2) the hazard was "recognized" by the employer, his industry or safety experts familiar with the industry, (3) the hazard was causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm should an accident occur, and (4) there was feasible and useful means to eliminate or substantially reduce the hazard.

If the fall hazard is to the interior of a structure, the situation is governed by 1926.750(b)(2)(i), which does not call for personal protective equipment such as body belts or harnesses even though the fall distance may be up to 30 feet. An appellate court decision, however, suggests that the general duty clause could also be cited in such situations, "if an employer knows a particular safety standard is inadequate to protect his workers against the specific hazard it is intended to address, or that the conditions in his place of employment are such that the safety standard will not adequately deal with the hazards to which his employees are exposed, he has a duty under section 5(a)(1) to take whatever measures may be required by the Act, over and above those mandated by the safety standard, to safeguard his workers. In sum, if an employer knows that a specific standard will not protect his workers against a particular hazard, his duty under section 5(a)(1) will not be discharged no matter how faithfully he observes that standard." General Dynamics Land Systems Division (815 F.2d 1570, 1577).

OSHA will, therefore, look for employer awareness that falls of less than 30 feet can cause serious injury. Such awareness might be demonstrated, for example, through the employer's knowledge of his own or his industry's injury experience related to interior falls.

You have also asked about the applicability of 1926.16, "Rules of Construction," which is found in Subpart B of 29 CFR Part 1926. As is explained at 29 CFR 1910.12(c), Subparts A and B of Part 1926 have specific reference only to section 107 of the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (the Construction Safety Act). Subparts A and B are included in Part 1926 because OSHA may enforce them under the Construction Safety Act, but those subparts were not adopted as Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act standards and therefore have no direct bearing on enforcement of the OSH Act.

Although 1926.16 does not apply beyond federally funded worksites, you should be aware that for purposes of OSH Act enforcement, OSHA does interpret employer liability to extend to employers who create or control a violative condition as well as to employers whose employees are exposed to such conditions. The enclosed pages from OSHA's [Field Inspection Reference Manual] will more fully explain this enforcement policy.

If we can be of any further assistance, please contact [the Directorate of Construction at 202 693-2020].


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

[Correction 6/20/2005. See OSHA Directive CPL 02-01-034 "
Inspection policy and procedures for OSHA's steel erection standards for construction" published on 3/22/2002 for the current policy on OSHA's steel erection standards (1926 Subpart R) for construction.]