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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 https://www.osha.gov.
May 25, 2001
Mr. Gary W. Larson
Executive Vice President
Scaffold Industry Association
20335 Ventura Boulevard # 310
Woodland Hills, California 91364
Re: CPL 2-1.23; Climbing over or through guardrails on scaffolds used in construction
Dear Mr. Larson:
This is in response to your December 20, 2000, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). We apologize for the delay in responding.
In your letter you call our attention to an apparent conflict between a letter dated February 6, 1997, to Mr. R. B. Jacobsen and OSHA Directive CPL 2-1.23 (Inspection Procedures for Enforcing Subpart L, Scaffolds Used in Construction - 29 CFR 1926.450-454) ("Scaffold Directive"). Specifically, the Scaffold Directive states that the construction scaffolding standard does not prohibit climbing through guardrails as a means of access to the scaffold. It further states that "there is no consensus with regard to climbing over or through guardrails; therefore, OSHA has not adopted a rule prohibiting the practice." You note that, in contrast, OSHA stated in the Jacobsen letter that "climbing over or through guardrails is widely regarded by the industry as hazardous," and that "OSHA would consider issuing a citation under the General Duty Clause of the OSHAct."
We appreciate your bringing this to our attention; the Jacobsen letter was incorrect with respect to how this practice is generally regarded in the industry. We apologize for any confusion that this has caused.
The statement in the Scaffold Directive quoted above addresses climbing over or through guardrails as a general matter. What was not addressed in that directive were particular situations where specific circumstances would present a risk of falling. For example, in some cases, such a hazard may be present due to an employee wearing bulky equipment that is likely to get caught on the guardrails while entering or exiting the scaffold. So, bear in mind that there may be specific circumstances where the General Duty Clause would prohibit climbing over or through guardrails. In such cases, methods of correcting the hazard may include providing access gates or attaching a bucket and gin wheel to the scaffold to deliver equipment to the scaffold platform.
This letter supersedes all previous letters on this subject, and the Jacobsen letter referenced above has been rescinded.
If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again by writing to: Directorate of Construction - OSHA, Office of Construction Standard and Compliance Assistance, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.
Russell B. Swanson, Director Directorate of Construction