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 25, 2000

Mr. Douglas A. Holman
1816 River Bend Road
Serieville, TN 37876

Subject: 29 CFR 1926.451(g)(4)(ii) (change of scaffold toprail height)

Dear Mr. Holman:

This is in response to your letter of June 17, 1999, in which you seek clarification of 29 CFR 1926.451(g)(4)(ii) (toprail height requirements for scaffolds placed in service after January 1, 2000). We apologize for the delay in providing this response.

The provision you ask about states: "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 (0.97 m) and 45 inches (1.2 m) 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 (1.2)."

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.
     

 

 

Construction employers purchasing scaffolds directly from the manufacturer

After January 1, 2000, a construction employer that purchases a new scaffold directly from a scaffold manufacturer must make sure that it has guardrails at least 38 inches high.

Construction employers obtaining scaffolds from other sources

We are aware that most construction employers obtain scaffolds from sources other than the scaffold manufacturer, such as equipment leasing companies. We are also aware that scaffolds generally are not marked with a date of manufacture. With respect to compliance with this provision by these employers, OSHA anticipates that the scaffolds that the scaffold manufacturing industry will be placing in service and making after January 1, 2000, will meet the minimum 38 inch requirement. Construction employers who obtain scaffolds from sources other than the manufacturer normally will not be expected to determine whether a scaffold with 36 inch high guardrails was placed in service or manufactured before or after January 1, 2000.

We will revisit this policy if scaffold manufacturers continue to make or place in service scaffolds with 36 inch toprails after January 1, 2000.

The new height requirement also applies to scaffold components manufactured and placed in service after January 1, 2000

In your letter, you raise the issue of whether new components (manufactured and placed in service after January 1, 2000) must meet the new guardrail height requirement. In other words, do new components that are made to be used with pre-January 1, 2000, scaffolds have to meet the new height requirement?

The answer depends on whether the scaffold is built as a single, complete unit (such as some mobile scaffolds) that is not designed to have additional sections added or whether it is designed to have sections added or removed to suit the size of the project (such as most tube and coupler scaffolds and fabricated frame scaffolds). If the scaffold is a single, complete unit, replacement components do not have to meet the new height requirement. However, if it is designed to have sections added or removed, new components must meet the new height requirement.

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 Constructio

[Corrected 6/2/2005]