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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.
January 5, 2001
Mr. Jeff Reynolds
Division Safety Manager
1155 North Emerald Ave.
Modesto, CA 95351-1560
Re: Fall protection for vendors; 29 CFR 1926.501; Interpretation M-2
Dear Mr. Reynolds:
This is in response to your telephone inquiry of November 14, in which you asked about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) policy on fall protection for vendors delivering roofing materials to roofs.
In February, 1995, OSHA issued "Interpretation M-2" on this issue. That document is posted on OSHA's website under "Frequently Asked Questions" (www.osha.gov). The question and answer provided in that interpretation is as follows:
Question: I am a supplier of roofing materials. I deliver roofing materials to the job and place the material on the roof. What are my obligations?
Answer: Because your product will be used during construction activity, you are required under Subpart M to protect your employees from falls of 6 feet or more to lower levels when possible. Therefore, employees must be provided with personal fall arrest equipment to attach to an anchor point if available. In the case of vendors delivering roofing materials, OSHA will require the following:Gaining Access to the Roof: A handhold (rope, chain, or other railing) must be attached to the conveyer belt so that the employee has something to steady himself with as he gains access to the roof or a ladder must be used to gain access to the roof.
Distributing the Roofing Materials: Once on the roof the vendor's employee will receive the roofing products from a conveyor belt (lift truck or similar equipment) and then distribute the products onto the roof at various locations. During this distribution process, OSHA will not require the vendor's employees to install an anchorage point for fall protection equipment regardless of the slope off the roof or the fall distance.
Some confusion was created by the last paragraph, entitled "Basis for Decision," which states:
Basis for Decision: Delivering the materials directly to the roof eliminates hazards for other employees on the job who otherwise would have to move the materials from ground level to the roof. In recognition of this and in recognition that the roofing supplier will only be on the roof for a short period of time and focused on one task, OSHA is issuing this compliance interpretation. However, if the contractor has a suitable anchorage point available for use by the vendor's employee, it should be used.
The "Answer" paragraph states that employers are "required" to protect employees from falls when possible, and that the employees "must" be provided with personal fall protection equipment. However, the word "should" in the last sentence of the "Basis for Decision" paragraph has created uncertainty about whether the use of fall protection where anchors are available is required or recommended.
The discussion in the Basis for Decision paragraph was intended to explain the rationale for the Answer. Unfortunately, the informal use of the word "should" created confusion about the mandatory nature of the statements in the Answer itself. In short, we ought to have said "needs to be" or "must," rather than "should."
Compounding this confusion was an erroneous description of Interpretation M-2 in a letter to you dated May 30, 1996, from this office. That letter was a response to your request for copies of Interpretation M-2. Copies were supplied as an enclosure to the letter. However, in the letter, we erroneously described the policy as one in which "vendor's employees would not have to be tied off or otherwise protected from falling while delivering roofing materials." This was the opposite of the policy stated in the Answer in Interpretation M-2. Under the M-2 policy, vendors must provide fall protection equipment to their employees, who must use such equipment whenever suitable anchor points are available. Vendor employees are not required to be tied-off while delivering roofing materials only in situations where suitable anchorage points are not already available.
The Agency's policy was clearly stated in an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), which was published in the Federal Register on July 14, 1999 (volume 64, page 38,077). In the ANPR, OSHA stated that it
"will not require the vendor's employees to install an anchorage point for fall protection [when distributing roofing materials] regardless of the slope of the roof or the fall distance. However, if an anchorage point is already available on the roof, the employees must use fall protection equipment."
We apologize for the confusion created by these documents. Our policy is that stated in the Question and Answer portion of Interpretation M-2. The discussion in the Basis for Decision paragraph is revoked because it creates confusion regarding OSHA policy. We will be striking out that paragraph in the copy of Interpretation M-2 that is posted on our website. In addition, this letter to you supercedes our previous letter to you dated May 30, 1996. The May 30 letter will be removed from our website.
Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction