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.

April 20, 1998

Mr. Jonathan Hemenway Glazier
Association Counsel
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
4301 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22301

RE:1926.451(f); 1926.453; 1926.556; 1926.502(d)1910.67(c); 1910.269(g); body belts; harnesses; definition of restraint system, positioning device, fall arrest system

Dear Mr. Glazier:

This is in response to your letter of October 3, 1997, in which you asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) several questions regarding the use of fall protection while performing electrical maintenance and construction work from aerial lifts.

In your letter you expressed concern that §1926.556 Aerial Lifts had been removed from subpart N of the 29 CFR 1926 Construction Standards. These provisions have not been eliminated; they were relocated and can now be found in subpart L-Scaffolds.

During the subpart L rulemaking process, it was determined that the requirements that were in paragraph 1926.451(f) (Elevating and Rotating Work Platforms) were the same as those in §1926.556. To minimize the number of regulations pertaining to aerial lifts, and to make it easier for construction employers to find the aerial lift requirements, OSHA relocated them to §1926.453. These requirements remain unchanged. Under paragraph 1926.453(a), vehicle mounted elevating and rotating work platforms must comply with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A92.2-1969.

Your letter further questioned how the deletion of §1926.556 affects paragraph 1926.952(b). Paragraph 1926.952(b) sets requirements for aerial lifts used in power transmission and distribution. This incorporated the aerial lift requirements of §1926.556. Since the requirements that were in §1926.556 have been moved to §1926.453, the requirements of §1926.453 now apply to paragraph 1926.952(b). In future publications of 29 CFR 1926 Construction Standards in the Code of Federal Regulations, paragraph 1926.951(b) will reference the new standard number.

You also ask for clarification of the fall protection requirements for workers in aerial lifts. Both the general industry standard (paragraph 1910.67(c)(2)(v)) and construction standard (paragraph 1926.453(b)(2)(v)) for extensible boom platforms require workers in aerial lifts to be tied-off.

Restraint Systems
If the employee is protected by a "restraint" system, either a body belt or a harness may be used. When a restraint system is used for fall protection from an aerial lift, the employer must ensure that the lanyard and anchor are arranged so that an employee is not potentially exposed to falling to a level below.

Fall Arrest Systems
If the equipment permits an arrested fall from a horizontal work surface, it is considered a fall arrest system. Fall arrest systems, whether used to comply with the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution standards in general industry or construction, must comply with paragraph 1926.502(d). That provision prohibits the use of a body belt in a fall arrest system, and instead requires the use of a body harness (paragraph 1910.269(g) states that the requirements of 1926 subpart M apply; the body harness requirement is in subpart M).

Positioning Devices: Construction Work
You have asked whether equipment that limits a fall to two feet would be considered a fall arrest system. The only time a body belt may be used where there may be a fall is when an employee is using a "positioning device." In construction work, a positioning device is used to protect a worker on a vertical work surface. These devices may permit a fall of up to two feet. They may be used in concrete formwork, installation of reinforcing steel, and certain telecommunications work. Since workers in aerial lifts are on a horizontal surface, a positioning device may not be used by them to meet the tie-off requirements.

Positioning Devices: General Industry Work
Should you be involved in Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution work covered by OSHA's general industry standard, the following would apply. The general industry aerial lift standard, 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 basket. 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 (0.6 m), 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)(i), which requires fall arrest equipment to meet 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M Fall Protection. (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 m). 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.

[This document was edited on 06/22/00 to strike information that no longer reflects current OSHA policy.]

This letter supersedes the descriptions or definitions of a restraint device/system and a positioning device/system in the following interpretation letters issued by OSHA: April 14, 1995 letter to Mr. Frank Bannister of Sprint; October 10, 1997 letter to John Dahmer of Wisconsin Electric Power Co.; November 27, 1995 letter to Mr. Daryl Ingram of Carterville Electric System; December 18, 1997 letter to Glenn Smith of Glenn Smith Associates, Inc. We will send a copy of this letter to each of these organizations. Any other OSHA interpretation letters with an inconsistent definition of these devices/systems are also superseded.

If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again by writing to: Directorate of Construction OSHA Office of Construction Standards and Compliance Assistance, Rm. N3621, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.


Russell B. Swanson
Directorate of Construction