- Standard Number:
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.
December 18, 1997
Mr. Glenn L. Smith, President
Glenn Smith Associates, Inc.
3310 Nuttree Woods Place
Midlothian, VA 23112
Dear Mr. Smith:
This is in response to your July 29 letter requesting clarification of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA ) requirements on fall protection for employees performing work covered by the Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution standard, 29 CFR 1910.269. Please accept our apology for the delay in responding. Your scenarios and questions and our replies follow.
There is insufficient information to determine whether the work practices described in the following scenario meet or violates OSHA standards. Please be advised that compliance with OSHA standards is determined by a Compliance Safety and Health Officer inspection of the workplace on an application by application basis. An employer must meet applicable provisions of the General Industry Standard, most notably, §1910.269 or applicable provisions of the Construction Standard, 1926 Subpart V.
A qualified (line technician) employee uses an aerial lift vehicle to reach a working position at 20 feet (6.1 meters) up the pole, performs cover up or other work functions at this level, continues to extend the aerial lift to its maximum working length, climbs out of the bucket and free climbs the pole until he or she reaches his or her new work position. The line technician's fall protection equipment includes pole climbers, a body belt and a safety strap.
Question 1 & 2:
Would this practice violate OSHA's 29 CFR 1910 General Industry or 29 CFR 1926 Construction Standard? If you find the above scenario to be in violation, what additional equipment or work practices would be needed to be in compliance?
Paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(v) specifically permits climbing and changing location without the use of fall protection equipment provided it is safe to do so. While §1926.951 does not specifically permit climbing or changing location without the use of fall protection equipment, OSHA accepts compliance with paragraph 1910.269(g)(2) for construction, as well as general industry, work. (This is addressed on pages 4336 & 4337 in the preamble to the Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution (Power Generation) Final Rule. A copy of the Final Rule is enclosed for your use.)
In determining compliance with paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(v), OSHA will rely upon the language in the standard, the guidance given in the preamble to the aforementioned Final Rule, and current national consensus standards for fall protection used during overhead power transmission and distribution work. Although the Power Generation Final Rule does not specifically address whether an employee can safely transfer between an aerial lift and a utility pole, there is a national consensus standard, that is, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Trial Use Guide for the Utility Industry, IEEE Std 1307-1996, that covers this issue. This guide may be used to meet the fall protection requirements under paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(v), as long as it does not conflict with other §1910.269 requirements, the preamble to the Final Rule, or any official letters of interpretation issued by OSHA, and as long as it does not conflict with manufacturer limitations placed on the use of the aerial lift equipment. Section 6.2.2 (a page copy of which is enclosed) of the IEEE 1307 Standard discusses transferring between aerial lifts and structures. An employer who follows the requirements of this IEEE section will be considered in compliance with paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(v) provided that:
The manufacturer of the aerial lift does not prohibit, in writing, the transfer of an employee from and to an aerial lift while elevated; and
An employee other than the transferring employee is in the aerial lift during transfer. The employee remaining in the aerial lift is required to assist the transfer by disconnecting the lanyard from the aerial lift after the other employee transfers to the structure and by connecting the lanyard to the aerial lift before the other employee transfers to the aerial lift. Also, the employee remaining in the aerial lift is required to ensure that the controls of the aerial lift are not accidentally operated and that the aerial device remains properly positioned during the transfer.
Will a full body harness be required for a qualified employee working from an aerial lift after January 1, 1998, or will a body belt and safety strap used as working positioning equipment be acceptable?
After January 1, 1998, an employee doing construction work must wear harness (a body belt is prohibited) as a component in a fall arrest system. However, the use of a body belt in a positioning device system intended to arrest an employee's free fall is acceptable. Positioning device systems must be rigged such that an employee cannot free fall more than 2 feet (0.6 meters). See paragraphs 1926.502(d) and(e).
For general industry work, paragraph 1910.67(c)(2)(v) requires an employee working from an aerial lift to wear a body belt with a lanyard attached to the boom or platform. When the lanyard and body belt required under paragraph 1910.67(c)(2)(v) is rigged such that the employee can free fall more than two feet(0.6m), the employer must meet the personal fall arrest requirements under paragraph 1910.269(g)(2). If work positioning equipment is being used to meet the aerial lift provisions, paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(ii), which adopts §1926.959 by reference, must be met. Personal fall arrest equipment must meet paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(1), which requires fall arrest equipment to meet 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M. (The note following paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(v) applies only to that paragraph. It does not apply to the remainder of paragraph 1910.269(g)(2).) A body belt and lanyard combination is considered to be work positioning equipment if the employee it is protecting can free fall no more than 2 feet (0.6 meters). For aerial lift work covered by §1910.269, body belts would only be acceptable after January 1, 1998, if they are attached to a lanyard that limits the free fall distance to no more than 2 feet.
A qualified employee (line technician) free climbs to a work height on one of two poles connected together by a beam and cross braces (an "H" configuration). The technician holds on to the cross braces as he or she free climbs from one pole to the other pole. The technician uses a body belt and safety strap as positioning equipment while performing work on the poles. The beam and cross braces may be 70-90 feet (21.3-27.4 meters) from ground level. If not allowed to cross over, the technician would have to descend the first pole climbed and then climb 70-90 feet to his or her work position on the other pole.
Is this practice in violation of the 29 CFR 1910 General Industry or the 29 CFR 1926 Construction Standard?
Under paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(v), fall protection equipment is not normally required to be used by a qualified employee climbing or changing location on poles, towers or similar structures. A qualified employee may free climb a pole and transit the beam and crossbars structure connection to the other pole without fall protection unless conditions, such as, but not limited to, ice, high winds, the design of the structure (for example, no provision for holding on with hands), or the presence of containments on the structure, could cause the employee to lose his or her grip. Whether adequate hand holds are provided in way of the cross members connecting the poles could not be discerned from the diagram you provided. When hand holds are not provided, the employee must use fall protection when transiting from one pole to the other by way of the cross members.
Please note that before an employee (free) climbs a structure, he or she must be trained and must demonstrate proficiency in climbing a particular structure. Training requirements for climbing are covered by paragraph 1910.269(a)(2) and Note 2 following paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(v). The job briefing required under paragraph 1910.269(c) must cover hazards associated with a particular climb, the climbing procedures involved, special climbing precautions, and personal protection equipment used for that climb.
Subpart V-(Electric) Power, Transmission, and Distribution of the Part 1926 Construction Standard is in the early stage of revision. Enclosed for your use (comments are solicited) is a draft proposed revision of this standard. This draft proposal is taken from §1910.269 (less generation requirements which are not applicable to construction).
Question 5 & 6:
If this practice is in violation of the standards, what fall protection is required to make the crossing from one pole to the other?
The reply to Question 4 above applies.
We appreciate your interest in employee safety and health. If we can be of further assistance, please contact the Office of Safety Compliance Assistance, Mr. Ronald J. Davies, telephone (202) 219-8031, extension 110.
John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs