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 4, 1997

 

MEMORANDUM FOR:         REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS

FROM:                   EMZELL BLANTON, JR.
                        ACTING DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY

SUBJECT:                Construction Scaffold Standard:
                        Appendix B
                        Enforcement of 1926.451(e)(9) and (g)(2)

Appendix B to Subpart L is still being developed. When completed, it will provide a non- mandatory set of guidelines that a competent person would take into account when evaluating access and fall protection options for erectors and dismantlers of supported scaffolds. To help develop these guidelines, OSHA asked the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) for assistance. In response, ACCSH established a workgroup that has been meeting with representatives of interested scaffold groups. The work of that committee is presently in draft form and is not yet ready for general distribution.

Nevertheless, enforcement of the .451 (e)(9) access requirement and the .451 (g)(2) fall protection requirement began on September 2, 1997, when these provisions became effective. However, until Appendix B has been issued, all such enforcement actions must be reviewed by the Directorate of Construction (DOC) before citations are issued. This will allow such citations to be compared for consistent National enforcement. Thus, any worksite condition in violation of these standards must first be carefully reviewed for a possible infeasibility or greater hazard defense by the employer. OSHA must be prepared to make a rebuttal showing that compliance is feasible and does not pose a greater hazard. If, after such review, the Area Director believes that the basis for a citation exists, a brief summary of the case file material relating to the proposed citation(s) must be forwarded by e-mail to Mr. Roy Gurnham of DOC for concurrence prior to issuance. Mr. Gurnham's e-mail address is gurnham-roy@dol.gov.

Pending completion of Appendix B, the following policies, in effect since July of 1992 and February of 1996, respectively, shall be used to determine whether there is a violation of the standard requiring personal fall arrest systems for employees erecting or dismantling supported scaffolds. First of all, the employer must provide fall protection unless the employer can successfully show a greater hazard or the infeasibility of using such protection. OSHA recognizes that there are situations where fall protection cannot feasibly be provided or where there is a greater hazard in providing fall protection than in not providing it; however, if such a situation does not exist, the employer is required to provide it. Appendix B is intended to indicate commonly found factors where infeasibility or greater hazard may exist. For example, although it may be impossible to provide body harness systems on a scaffold that is one bay by four bays high and which is located in an open field, such protection may be possible when that same scaffold increases in length, the same body harness system may not be feasible if there is only a single anchorage point available and employees must transverse the entire length of the scaffold.

With respect to the question of whether scaffolds can be used as anchorage points for personal fall arrest systems, DOC understands that the Scaffold Industry Association and the Scaffolding, Shoring and Forming Institute are concerned that scaffolds and scaffold components have not been designed to accept the forces imposed by employee falls. OSHA would agree that during the erection and dismantling process the typical scaffold cannot comply with all of the criteria of 29 CFR 1926.502(d)(15) which, among other things, requires the anchorage [i.e., the scaffold, if it is the tie-off point for the fall arrest system] to be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per employee attached. Nevertheless, under present Commission law relating to the infeasibility defense, employers must provide protection for their employees to the extent possible even if the criteria referenced in 29 CFR 1926.502(d)(15)(i) and (ii) should be used if in the judgement of the competent person, the partially erected or dismantled scaffold can provide reasonable protection, should there be a fall.

The general policy outlined above also applies to situations where OSHA believes that a citation should be proposed for failure to provide access to a support scaffold during erection or dismantling.