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.

November 2, 1995

Mr. Dennis Gilmore
Safety Director
Tougher Industries, Inc.
P. O. Box 4067
Albany, New York 12204

Dear Mr. Gilmore:

This is in response to your letter of February 8, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in which you requested that your company be exempted from 29 CFR 1926.502, Fall Protection Systems Criteria and Practices. You point out that your employees utilize restraint systems rather than fall arrest systems for employee protection from falling.

Although OSHA cannot exempt you from any part of the standards, we do concur that if certain portions of the standards do not apply to your operation, then you do not have to be concerned about complying with those sections. For example, if you do not utilize a controlled access zone, you do not have to follow those portions of the standards dealing with controlled access zones.

Although the standard does not mention them, we do accept properly utilized fall restraint systems in lieu of fall arrest systems when the restraint system is rigged in such a way that the employee cannot get to the fall hazard. We suggest that, as a minimum, fall restraint systems have the capacity to withstand at least three thousand (3000) pounds of force or twice the maximum expected force that is needed to restrain the person from exposure to the fall hazard. In determining this force, consideration should be given to site-specific factors such as the force generated by a person walking, leaning, or sliding down the work surface.

There are sections of 1926.502 that deal with matters other than fall protection systems, such as the sections on covers and protection from falling objects.

If you have any questions, please call me or Dale Cavanaugh of my staff at (202) 219-8136.


Roy F. Gurnham, P.E., J.D.
Office of Construction and Maritime
Compliance Assistance