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.

June 10, 1999

The Honorable Bob Graham
United States Senator
P.O. Box 3050
Tallahassee, Florida 32315

Dear Senator Graham:

Thank you for your May 13, 1998 letter on behalf of your constituent, Mr. William E.H. Johnson. He requested clarifications and interpretations of OSHA's requirements on fall protection and personal protective equipment 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.

This standard was developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with help from electric utility trade associations, representatives from several electric utilities, and several unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Yet, Mr. Johnson suggested that two specific OSHA requirements should be rescinded: the provision requiring linemen to wear steel or hard toe boots during the performance of their normal duties, and the provision requiring linemen to wear a body harness while working aloft in bucket trucks.

The specific paragraph applicable to personal protective equipment for power line workers is 1910.269(g). A power line worker would be required to wear steel-toe shoes only when the employer determines that the employee's feet are exposed to crushing hazards or penetration by sharp objects. OSHA's general provision for personal protective equipment (PPE) is found in 29 CFR 1910.132. That section states: "The employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). If such hazards are present, or likely to be present, the employer shall:

"(i) Select, and have each affected employee use the types of PPE that will protect the affected employee from the hazards identified in the hazard assessment [and]

(ii) Communicate selection decisions to each affected employee."

 

In other words, steel-toe shoes may not always be necessary. In any event, foot protection is available in various types and models, and it should be possible to select effective protection without creating a new, more serious, hazard. (Further guidance on selection can be found in Appendix B of Subpart I of Part 1910).

Mr. Johnson also objects to using a body harness, as opposed to a waist belt, for protection against falls from aerial lift buckets. In all of its newer standards, OSHA has been requiring that body harnesses be used because they provide far more effective protection from fall hazards. Accordingly, when OSHA developed its standard for Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution, it adopted the specifications for personal fall arrest equipment set out in Subpart M of 29 CFR 1926, OSHA's standard for fall protection in construction. These specifications require the use of body harnesses rather than body belts and lanyards.

Since January 1, 1998, several electric utilities have reported successful conversion to body harnesses in place of body belts for use in aerial lifts. The utilities' comments have stressed the importance of selecting a body harness that is comfortable and of adjusting it properly to the specific employee.

[This document was edited on 06/22/2000 to strike information that no longer reflects current OSHA policy.]

I hope this response addresses your concerns. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact [the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100]. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health.

Sincerely,


Charles N. Jeffress
Assistant Secretary

[Corrected 6/2/2005]

 



March 30, 2001

Mr. E. H. Johnson
16398 76 Street N.
Loxahatchee, FL 33470

Dear Mr. Johnson:

The purpose of this letter is to advise you that Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs is withdrawing its June 10, 1999 response to the Honorable Bob Graham concerning fall protection for employees performing work covered by the Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution standard, §1910.269. The letter was written in response to your April 22, 1998 letter to Senator Connie Mack who requested clarification (through Senator's Graham's office) on the use of body harnesses, as opposed to waist belts, on aerial lifts.

As this letter demonstrates, OSHA's re-examination of an issue may result in the clarification or correction of previously stated enforcement guidance. We have amended the response to your question on aerial lift fall protection that is posted on our website (at http://www.osha.gov) as follows: the incorrect guidance has been struck out and we have added a statement that this information no longer reflects current Agency policy.

Paragraph (c)(2)(v) of the Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Work Platforms standard, §1910.67, requires employees working from an aerial lift to use a body belt with a lanyard attached to the boom or basket. See §1910.269(g)(2)(v), Note 1. While OSHA will require only that an employer uses an appropriate body belt and lanyard combination to protect the employee from injury in the event of a fall, employers should be mindful that body harnesses are generally a superior method of fall protection.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope this provides the clarification you were seeking and apologize for any confusion the earlier documents may have caused. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact [the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850].

Sincerely,


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]