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 https://www.osha.gov.

November 3, 2000

Mr. Thomas Lee Dahl
NPSW Venture
5555 South Hadden Road
Mazon, Il 60444

Re: 1910.146, 1926.21(b)(6)(i), 1926.353(b)(1) & (b)(2), 1926.502(d), 1926.502(d)(3) and (4), 1926.502(d)(18), 1926.651(g), 1926.800, 1926.956, OSHA Confined Spaces Advisor; Personal Fall Arrest Systems

Dear Mr. Dahl:

This is in response to your fax dated March 21, 2000, addressed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requesting interpretations of confined spaces and fall protection issues in construction. We apologize for the delay in providing this response.

Several of your questions deal with general industry issues and were referred to the [Office of General Industry Enforcement] for a response. The questions that you submitted dealing with construction are paraphrased and addressed below.

Questions (1) & (2): Does OSHA's Confined Spaces Advisor on the Internet apply to construction? If the Confined Spaces Advisor does not apply to employees engaged in construction then what section or sections must be followed?

Answer: The advisor does not apply to confined spaces in construction. It provides guidance regarding OSHA's permit-required confined space (PRCS) rules for general industry employers under 29 CFR 1910.146. Under §1910.146(a), employers of workers engaged exclusively in construction are not covered by this standard.

In construction, employers must comply with §1926.21(b)(6)(i), which states: "All employees required to enter a confined or enclosed space shall be instructed as to the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken, and in the use of protective and emergency equipment required. The employer shall comply with any specific regulations that apply to the work in dangerous or potentially dangerous areas." Other regulations that may apply include: §1926.353(b)(1) (requirement for exhaust ventilation when welding, cutting, or heating is performed in confined spaces); §1926.353(b)(2) (requirements for air line respirators and standby person whenever the means of access is blocked by ventilation equipment); §1926.800 Subpart S - Underground Construction (requirements applicable to caissons, etc.); §1926.956 underground lines (electrical); and §1926.651(g) (hazardous atmospheres in excavations).

Question (3): Under §1926.502(d), is the use of a rigging sling, attached to an anchor point, configured with a shackle to connect a retractable lanyard to the sling, considered proper fall arrest equipment?

You asked this question with respect to the following example: A rigging sling is secured to a 24" pipe that meets OSHA's 5000 lbs. anchorage requirements. A shackle is used to connect a retractable lanyard to the sling. The sling is rated at 10,500 lb. and the shackle is rated at 4.75 tons. The retractable lanyard stops the fall within 2 feet. Under OSHA's regulations, a retractable lanyard that stops the fall within 2 feet must have a tensile strength of 3,000 lbs. When using such a lanyard, is an anchorage with a capacity of 3,000 lbs. sufficient? Is the configuration of the system described in the example acceptable?

Answer: 29 CFR 1926.502(d)(15), 1926.502(d)(15)(i) and 1926.502(d)(15)(ii) specify that anchorage points used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment must be capable of supporting 5000 pounds (22.2 kN) per employee attached, or designed by a qualified person with a safety factor of two. In addition, §1926.502(d)(12) states: "self-retracting lifelines and lanyards which automatically limit free fall distance to 2 feet (0.61 m) or less shall be capable of sustaining a minimum tensile load of 3,000 pounds (13.3 kN) applied to the device with the lifeline or lanyard in the fully extended position." The first provision sets the required anchorage strength. The second provision addresses the force a fully extended lanyard and lifeline must be able to sustain.

First, retractable lanyards that limit the fall to no more than 2 feet will yield different arresting forces, depending on the manufacturer. However, the total arresting forces multiplied by a factor of two will normally be under 3,000 lbs. Therefore, when using such a lanyard, an anchor with a capacity of 3,000 lbs will usually be sufficient. However, remember that when calculating the arresting forces, you must consider the total fall distance. This means including in your calculations the total distance that the employee will fall before the retractable lanyard starts to grab. For example, if the retractable lanyard is anchored at foot level, the employee will fall a few feet before it begins to grab. In that case, §1926.502(d)(12) is not applicable since the fall distance would exceed 2 feet. Those additional feet of fall would add to the arresting force, and could result in a total arresting force (times a factor of two) above 3,000 pounds. In that case both the retractable lanyard and the anchorage would have to have a capacity above 3,000 pounds.

Second, with the limited information included in your letter, the example offered may comply with §1926.502(d); but some components of the system must be tested or have a verification that they meet certain strength tests, such as the D-rings and snaphooks under §1926.502(d)(3) and (4). Note that Appendix C to subpart M provides the qualified person non-mandatory guidelines for complying with §1926.502(d).

In your example, the sling and the pipe are the anchorage. We assume that there is no direct attachment point to the pipe and that the sling is placed around the pipe and either a two-end fitting or one-end fitting is connected to the lanyard with a shackle. The sling and pipe must both meet the 5,000 pound (22.2 kN) or safety factor of two requirement.

Question (4): Section 1926.502(d)(18) prohibits the use of fall arrest equipment for the hoisting of materials. Can rigging equipment such as slings and shackles be used in a proper configuration for fall arrest purposes?

Answer: Section 1926.502(d)(18) states: "Body belts, harnesses and components shall be used only for employee protection (as part of a personal fall arrest system or positioning device system) and not to hoist materials." In the preamble to the standard, we explained the purpose of this provision: "The Agency is concerned that a fall protection system that had been used to hoist material would then be issued to an employee as a fall protection system. OSHA has revised the provision to indicate clearly its intent that components of fall arrest and positioning device systems are only to be used for those purposes" (see page 40709 of the Federal Register, volume 59, No.152, August 9, 1994). If any component of the rigging system, such as a shackle, wire rope, or synthetic sling was or is used to hoist materials, these components are not be used as part of a fall protection system. If they have not been so used, they may be used as part of a fall arrest system if they meet the criteria in §1926.502. Note that the criteria limit the types of material and devices that may be used. The type and strength of materials and the live and static loads are specified. The requirements can be viewed on the internet at:
Link to 1926.502 - Fall protection systems criteria and practices.

In sum, if the components and design of the fall arrest system meets the criteria and the rigging equipment has never been used to hoist material, then the use of these materials would be permitted.

If you need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact the Occupational Safety and Health Standard Administration, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Compliance Assistance, Room N3468, or for your general industry issues the Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance, Room N3107, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction

[Corrected 5/28/2004]