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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

May 22, 1998

Mr. James E. Vaughan
Today's Resources, Inc.
1755 Northwest Blvd.
Columbus, Ohio 43212

Re: Boatswains' chair; hoisting personnel; 1926.550(g); 1926.452(o); 1926.651(g)(2)(ii);


Dear Mr. Vaughan:

This is in response to your October 16, 1995 letter to Joseph A. Dear, former Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Unfortunately your letter was misplaced and only recently re-discovered. Please accept our sincere apologies for the inordinate delay in writing our response.

In your letter you asked if a boatswains' chair may be used to hoist a worker on a telescoping crane under the following circumstances: (1) the crane has two load lines, and the boatswain chair is attached to the second line; (2) a safety belt is attached above the ball to suspend the employee; (3) while in the chair, the employee attaches the load to the primary load line; (4) the employee is not positioned under the load, and (5) the chair meets the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.451(1).

You mentioned that in a December 2, 1991, letter OSHA stated that a boatswains chair could be used on an A-frame with reliable hoisting equipment to get employees into drilled foundation piers (so long as 1926.451(1) and .651(g)(2)(ii) were met). OSHA also said in that letter that, if using an A-frame would be more hazardous than using a crane, a crane could be used. However, when using a crane, a personnel platform that met the requirements of §1926.550(g) would have to be used.

Section 1926.550(g)(2) provides that "the use of hoist employees on a personnel platform is prohibited" unless the employer establishes that the "erection, use, and dismantling of conventional means of reaching the worksite, such as a personnel hoist, ladder, stairway, or aerial lift, elevating work platform or scaffold, would be more hazardous or is not possible because of structural design or worksite conditions." OSHA interprets this provision generally to preclude hoisting personnel on a crane unless these circumstances are present and unless they are hoisted in a personnel platform.

If the employer establishes that providing employee access by means other than hoisting presents a greater hazard than hoisting by crane, then hoisting may be used. However, when hoisting workers in a personnel platform, a number of safety requirements apply. These are listed in §1926.550(g). Note that one of these requirements is that no lifts be made on another of the crane's load lines while personnel are suspended [§1926.550(g)(6)(viii)].

The employer may use a boatswains' chair instead of a personnel platform in two circumstances. First, if the employer can demonstrate that use of a personnel platform is infeasible due to circumstances at the worksite, a boatswains' chair may be used if it is the safest feasible alternative. Second, if the employer can demonstrate that use of a personnel platform would be unsafe, the employer may use the chair if the employer demonstrates that use of the boatswains' chair is the safest feasible alternative. In that event the employer must either apply to OSHA for a variance or be able to show that a variance would be inappropriate.

When using the boatswains' chair, the requirements in 1926.452(o) must be met, and fall protection must be provided [§1926.451(g)(1)(i)]. In addition, the employer must take precautions to ensure that the employee in the chair will not contact the structure being worked on while being hoisted.

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, Room N3621, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.


Russell B. Swanson
Directorate of Construction