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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

March 9, 1999

Mr. J. Robert Harrell
Safety Management Services
4012 Santa Nella Place
San Diego, CA 92130-2291

RE: 1926.501(b)(5), 1926.502(d)(15), 1926.502(e)(2), 1926.503(b)(1), 1926.701(b)

Dear Mr. Harrell:

This is in response to your letter dated July 27, 1998, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in which you ask a series of questions concerning fall protection and training for employees working on reinforcing steel (rebar) assemblies. You indicate that you asked the same questions of California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health. We apologize for the lateness of this response.

As you know, the State of California administers its own occupational safety and health program under a plan approved and monitored by Federal OSHA. Under this plan, the State is responsible for conducting workplace inspections, including inspections in response to complaints by employees about unsafe working conditions. Under its OSHA-approved State plan, California adopts and enforces occupational safety and health standards which are at least as effective as OSHA's standards. Below are our interpretations of Federal OSHA requirements -- to the extent California applies more stringent requirements, you are required to comply with California's requirements.

Question: When traveling vertically and/or horizontally on rebar assemblies, does OSHA require employees constructing rebar to use fall protection?

Answer: Section 1926.501(b)(5) requires that employees on the face of reinforcing steel must be protected from falling 6 feet or more to lower levels by personal fall arrest systems, safety net systems, or positioning devices. After OSHA published this as a final rule, the National Association of Reinforcing Steel Contractors and the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers asserted that because of the way the rebar is transported to a work location (workers carry the rebar by cradling it in their arms), it was not feasible, or would create a greater hazard, to constantly connect and disconnect fall protection devices while climbing the rebar assemblies.

For this reason, and because rebar assemblies are similar to a fixed ladder, OSHA has allowed workers while constructing rebar assemblies to climb without fall protection up to 24 feet. Once employees reach their work location, or climb above 24 feet, they must use fall protection as specified by the standard.

Question: Does the above exception apply to trades other than those constructing the rebar?

For example, are carpenters allowed to climb without fall protection when they are going point to point to secure the hair pins, taper ties, "she bolts," or whatever they are using to secure both sides of the wall forms around the rebar gages or wall mats?

Answer: The exception applies only to employees building rebar assemblies. If an employee climbs a rebar assembly to build the assembly, then personal fall protection is not required below 24 feet when moving point to point. If an employee climbs a rebar assembly for purposes other than building the assembly, then personal fall protection is required when moving point to point above 6 feet.

Question: When employers use impalement covers on protruding rebar, does that relieve the need for employees to use fall protection? If an ironworker were to fall from a reinforcing steel assembly onto impalement protected protruding rebar, does the ironworker have an exposure?

Answer: Section 1926.501 addresses the hazard of falling onto a lower surface. Section 1926.701(b) addresses the additional hazard of being impaled in a fall. While compliance with §1926.701(b) eliminates the impalement hazard, it does not eliminate the hazard of falling onto a lower level. So, compliance with §1926.701(b) does not eliminate the need to comply with §1926.501.

We assume that, when you refer to an "impalement cover," you are referring to covering the rebar with wood or other impenetrable material that would prevent an employee from being impaled if the employee were to fall on it from the highest location the worker may be above the rebar.

Question: What type of tie hitch must be used to connect the horizontal and vertical rebar so as to provide a point that can be considered an acceptable anchorage connection?

Answer: The criteria for anchorages is in 1926.502(d) and (e), depending on the type of fall protection device used. As long as the anchor point meets the criteria, it is acceptable.

Question: What type of training program does OSHA require to properly train and educate ironworkers in safe work procedures? Must the employer have a written training program? Does OSHA require written testing of ironworkers?

Answer: In §1926.503 OSHA states the requirements for training employees on the fall protection standard. Although OSHA does not require a written program, employers must ensure employees receive training from a competent person qualified in the areas specified by 1926.503(a)(2). Under §1926.503(b), once an employee completes the training, the employer must certify in writing that the training requirements were met. Written tests are not required to prove an employee has been trained, but employers may use written tests to document that the training was provided.

Question: Would apprenticeship training by either union or non-union programs be acceptable for qualified training?

Answer: If the employer uses an outside trainer, or the employee was trained by another employer, the employer must ensure that training meets the requirements of the standard. It must also indicate the date that the employer determined the training was adequate in the certification record.

In the near future, OSHA plans to reevaluate selected sections of Subpart M - Fall Protection. We expect to issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) later this year. This notice will provide a period of time for public comment on the issues raised in the ANPR. I would encourage you to submit any comments you may have at that time.

Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to write us at: USDOL-OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Compliance Assistance, Room N3621, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction