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 https://www.osha.gov.

May 9, 1995

Association Counsel
Suite 300
Environmental Industry Associations
4301 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

Dear Mr. Moskowitz:

This is in response to your letter of February 24 addressed to Mr. James Foster and Ms. Barbara J. Bielaski requesting an interpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) newly revised standard for Fall Protection in the Construction Industry (Subpart M). Please excuse the delay in responding.

I have repeated your questions and provided our interpretation.


Question 1. Does the fall protection standard apply only to stationary equipment (e.g., scaffolding, catwalks, or ramps used to service machinery), or does OSHA believe that its jurisdiction extends to mobile or transportation equipment?


Question 2. If the fall protection standard does not apply to mobile equipment, might it apply to portions of that equipment that are routinely detached from the vehicle? For example, many customers receive waste collection services by means of a roll off container. These 6 foot tall detachable containers are mounted on a vehicle chassis during transportation, but are separated from the vehicle and left at the customer's site to be filled prior to disposal. Once filled, these containers are hoisted back onto the truck (using a hydraulic lift) and transported to a waste processing or disposal facility. Under this scenario, are these containers subject to the fall protection standards (1) when attached to the vehicle, and/or (2) when left as a stationary container at the generator's site?


Question 3. Does the fall protection standard apply to landfill sites?

The fall protection standard published in 29 CFR 1926 (Subpart M) requires that all employers engaged in construction operations (see enclosed interpretation of construction operations) provide some type of fall protection when their employees are exposed to falls of 6 feet or more to lower levels. There are some exceptions to this general statement. First, if employees are working in a situation where they could fall into or onto dangerous equipment, like a vat of acid or a crane, then the employee must be protected regardless of the fall height. Also, there are other sections of the construction standards that contain a requirement to have fall-protection when working on specific types of equipment or in specific operations. Subpart M will not apply in those situations. Each of those situations is listed in the scope section of Subpart M, under §1926.500. In particular, workers on scaffolds are to be protected from falls as specified in the Scaffold sections, Subpart L, and are not covered by the duty requirement of Subpart M -- Fall Protection. The same applies for workers on stairways and ladders. These activities are regulated in Subpart X which contains all of the fall protection requirements that would apply. Ramps, catwalks and other types of walking/working surfaces are clearly covered by Subpart M. Ramps, runways and other walkways are covered in §1926.501(b)(6). If a specific activity or location is not "scoped" out by paragraph §1926.500(a) and not-listed in paragraph §1926.501(b)(1) through (b)(14), then §1926.501(b)(15) Walking/Working Surfaces Not Otherwise Addressed would impose a duty to have fall protection for workers exposed to falls of 6 feet or more to lower levels. It requires the employer to protect employees from fall hazards through the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems. The employer can choose the system that works best for his or her construction operation. After the employer chooses a system of fall protection, he or she must ensure that the criteria for use in 1926.502 for the particular system has been met. The training requirements in §1926.503 apply to all construction activities, without exception.

Waste collection services are not considered to be construction activities and, therefore, are not covered by the occupational safety and health standards for construction and Subpart M -- Fall Protection in Construction does not apply to the operation you described.

In response to your question as to whether the construction fall protection standard applied to landfill sites, the answer is yes, for all construction operations underway at the landfill and no, if you are talking about normal operating activities such as dumping operations or moving material around in the dump. Those activities are not construction activities.

We also have fall protection requirements for workers engaged in general industry operations. In the occupational safety and health standards for general industry, Subpart D, Walking/Working Surfaces, and Subpart I, Personal Protective Equipment, may apply.

I hope this explanation adequately addresses the concerns raised in your letter. Please contact me at (202) 219-8061 if you have any further questions. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety.


Thomas H. Seymour, P.E.
Acting Director, Directorate of
Safety Standards Programs