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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

January 16, 1997

Susan R. Geier
Corporate Safety and Health Consultants, Inc.
125 Maiden Lane
New York, NY 10083

Dear Ms. Geier:

This is in response to your November 27, 1996 letter requesting confirmation that an employer can use Subpart M "Fall Protection" requirements in the 29 CFR 1926 Construction Standard to meet the fall protection equivalent to guardrail requirement under paragraph 1910.23(c)(1) of Subpart D "Walking-Working Surfaces" in the 29 CFR 1910 General Industry Standard for the following workplace scenario.

Scenario: A special project is being performed involving approximately seven (7) buildings, containing several different roof configurations, in an airport in the northeast. A detailed study of each roof must be conducted by employees who are required to use fall protection other than guardrails which are not feasible.

The Subpart M fall protection requirements under the 29 CFR 1926 Construction Standards may not be used to meet the provision of fall protection equivalent to guardrails under paragraph 1910.23(c)(1). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration intended that the Notices of Proposed Rulemaking on Walking and Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection systems), which were published in Volume 55, Number 69 of the Federal Register (FR) on Tuesday, April 10, 1990, be used. A copy of this FR is enclosed for your use. An employer must select a methodology that is safe for use in the particular fall protection application. For example, a personal fall arrest system should not be used when an employee could swing fall into an obstruction. Also, wire rope should not be used where an electrical hazard is anticipated. Other non-mandatory guidelines for personal fall arrest systems and other fall protection systems are contained in Appendix A to Subpart I (pages 13439 and 13440) of the enclosure.

Please be advised that employer compliance with a proposed rule, in lieu of compliance with an existing rule, is considered a "de minimis violation," that is, a violation of an existing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard which has no direct or immediate relationship to safety and health. Such violations of the OSHA standards result in no citation, no penalty, and no required abatement.

Thank you for your interest in employee safety and health. If we can be of further assistance, please contact [the Office of General Industry Enforcement at 202 693-1850].


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 4/4/2005.

Note: On April 10, 1990 OSHA published proposed revisions to Walking and Working Surfaces; Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems); Notices of Proposed Rulemaking; Slips; Falls; Trips in
Federal Register 55:13360-13441. It is available electronically only as an abstract. On May 2, 2003 OSHA reopened the rulemaking record on the proposed revisions to Walking and Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems). It was re-published in its entirety in Federal Register 68:23527-23568 and is available electronically.]