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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 http://www.osha.gov.
December 23, 1994
Mr. Fred H. Codding
National Association of Reinforcing Steel Contractors
10382 Main Street
Post Office Box 280
Fairfax, VA 22030
Dear Mr. Codding:
Your December 8 letter addressed to Ms. Barbara Bielaski requesting an interpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) final rule addressing fall protection during rebar assembly construction has been forwarded to the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance for response.
With regard to whether paragraph 1926.501(b)(5) of the final rule on subpart M applies to employees while moving vertically and/or horizontally on the vertical face or rebar assemblies built in place, please be advised that fall protection is not normally required when employees are moving. OSHA considers the multiple hand holds and foot holds on rebar assemblies as providing similar protection as that provided by a fixed ladder. Similarly, no fall protection is necessary while moving point to point for heights below 24 feet.
As is required by the fixed ladder standard, an employee must be provided with fall protection when climbing or otherwise moving at a height more than 24 feet. Other provisions of the ladder requirements might have application, however, many would be treated on a de minimus basis.
If we can be of any further assistance please contact me or Mr. Dale Cavanaugh of my staff at (202) 219-8136.
Roy F. Gurnham, P.E., J.D.
Office of Construction and Maritime Assistance
December 8, 1994
Barbara Bielaski, Safety Specialist
Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D. C. 20210
Dear Ms. Bielaski:
The purpose of this letter is to request that OSHA issue a clarification as to the fall protection requirements for installation of reinforcing steel (placing rebar) as they may be impacted by OSHA's moving fall protection for placing rebar from Subpart Q to the Subpart M effective February 6, 1995. The requested clarification should focus on the fall protection requirements (if any) for Iron Workers while they are ascending to their place of work (work station) upon vertical assemblies of reinforcing steel being built in place for the construction of vertical walls and columns and moving horizontally on those structures.
We submit that Iron Workers climbing or moving horizontally on the vertical face of rebar assemblies built in place should be exempt from the six foot 100 percent fall protection rule of new Subpart M for the following reasons:
1. There is no history of a problem of falls from vertical walls or column assemblies while they are being constructed in place. In addition, the 1988 Preamble to Subpart Q stated, in part, that "no additional requirements were needed in this subpart to protect employees while they erect reinforcing steel."
2. We are not aware that citations have been given for Iron Workers climbing and moving point to point under the Fall Protection Provisions of Subpart Q.
3. Under the circumstances described Iron Workers are climbing or moving on what is the equivalent of a ladder of reinforcing steel.
4. There is a greater hazard or it is infeasible to provide 100 percent fall protection for Iron Workers while they are ascending rebar walls and rebar column assemblies that are being constructed in place.
When Iron Workers carry rebar up a wall they are building, they do so on their upper arms while using their hands and feet to climb. It is virtually impossible to do this and reach down to undo a lanyard (when double lanyards are used). Further, a positioning device (wall hook or chain) is approximately 18 to 20 inches in length. Hooking and unhooking these devices for each move also would create a greater hazard when moving up and across these vertical assemblies.
Those working on ladders, scaffolds, pile drivers, telephone poles with lag bolt rungs and other stationary devices are permitted to climb unencumbered and without fall protection to their point of work where they then tie off. Designated climbers are permitted to ascend unencumbered and without fall protection to their work station where they then tie off in these and other analogous work activities.
We recognize and continue to support the requirement that when Iron Workers reach their work stations they must be tied off at all times. We also agree with those OSHA representatives who have stated that they have not experienced a problem with this. Based on the fact that there is no history of falls by Iron Workers while climbing these wall and column assemblies, we request that OSHA's clarification address paragraph 1926.501(5) formwork and reinforcing steel clearly stating that Iron Workers are not required to be tied off while climbing or moving horizontally, but shall be protected from falling 6 feet or more during all times while all times while at their work station.
We respectfully wish to emphasize the urgency of this request for clarification. Our contractors need a clear and unambiguous understanding of the fall protection requirements for Iron Workers plus under all circumstances and most especially in this gray area while ascending and moving from point to point.
In the event additional study is needed before the February 6, 1995, effective date for Subpart M, it is requested that an administrative stay of the reinforcing steel provisions be issued as was discussed in our earlier meeting. We are available to assist in any way possible.
Very truly yours,
Fred H. Coddings