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.

May 18, 2000

Ms. Joanne Cullen
Alum-A-Pole Corporation
1011 Capouse Avenue
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18509

Ref: Scaffold Guardrail height; 29 CFR 1926.451(g)(4)(ii)

Dear Ms. Cullen:

This is in response to your February 4, 2000, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in which you ask for clarification of the required height of a scaffold toprail. You specifically asked if scaffold systems that were manufactured before January 1, 2000, but not sold by the distributer until after that date, are required to meet the 38 inch requirement.

29 CFR 1926.451(g)(4)(ii) states, in part:

The top edge height of toprails or equivalent member on supported scaffolds manufactured or placed in service after January 1, 2000 shall be installed between 38 inches (.97m) and 45 inches (1.2m) above the platform surface. The top edge height on supported scaffolds manufactured and placed in service before January 1, 2000, and on all suspended scaffolds where both a guardrail and a personal fall arrest system are required shall be between 36 inches (.9m) and 45 inches (1.2m).

 

 

Under this provision:

 

 

  • Scaffolds manufactured and "placed in service" before January 1, 2000, must have a minimum 36 inch top guardrail height. "Placed in service" means sold or leased by the manufacturer for the first time to a user, equipment leasing company, etc. It does not mean "used by a contractor at a job."

    Example: A scaffold is manufactured on December 1, 1999, and sold to an equipment leasing company on December 20, 1999. It is leased to a user for the first time on March 10, 2000.

    Analysis: This scaffold was "placed in service" before January 1, 2000, since the manufacturer sold it to a leasing company before the cut-off date. A 36 inch top guardrail height is acceptable.
     
  • Scaffolds manufactured before January 1, 2000, but placed in service after January 1, 2000 must have toprails at least 38 inches high.

    Example: A scaffold is manufactured on December 1, 1999, but the manufacturer does not sell it until February 15, 2000, to an equipment leasing company.

    Analysis: This scaffold was placed in service after the cut-off date since it was first sold by the manufacturer on February 15, 2000. It therefore must have toprails at least 38 inches high.
     
  • Scaffolds manufactured after January 1, 2000, must meet the 38 inch minimum.
     

 

 

In the situation you described, the key question is whether the scaffold is sold to your distributor or not. If you, the manufacturer, sold the scaffold to the distributor before January 1, 2000, then it need not meet the 38 inch requirement. However, if you merely deliver the scaffold to the distributor on consignment and the distributor sells it for you after January 1, 2000, then the scaffold does have to meet the 38 inch requirement since it was first sold after January 1, 2000.

If you need additional information, please contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance, fax # 202-693-1689. You can also contact us by mail at the above office, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, although there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.

Sincerely,


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction

[Corrected 6/2/2005]