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.

April 2, 2004

Mr. Pete Kelley
Vice President
Superior Construction Company, Inc.
General Contractors
6972 Business Park Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32256-2735

Re: Requirement to use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for workers performing construction work over or near water.

Dear Mr. Kelley:

This is in response to your December 6, 2002, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requesting clarification of the requirements under 29 CFR 1926.106(a) regarding the use of personal flotation devices. We neglected to include a footnote (see footnote #2 below) in our March 16, 2004,letter to you. This letter replaces the March 16, 2004, letter. We apologize for this inconvenience.

We have paraphrased your question below:

Question: Our employees are engaged in constructing bridges and highway overpasses from barges. When on the barges, they are less than 6 feet above the water. Is there a specific type of personal flotation device that we are required to provide the employees when performing this work?

Title 29 CFR 1926.106(a) requires that:

Employees working over or near water, where the danger of drowning exists, shall be provided with U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket or buoyant work vests.

In order to comply with §1926.106(a), the employees must be provided a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD). Section 1926.106(a) does not specify that any specific type or classification of approval is required. Therefore, irrespective of the type of approval (for example, whether the PFD is approved for commercial or recreational use, or as to a particular size boat or vessel, or whether the vessel or boat is inspected or not1), as long as it has a Coast Guard approval, it will meet the §1926.106(a) requirement.2

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


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction



1 Note, though, we are addressing only the OSHA requirement - specific types of vests have to be provided in certain situations in order to comply with applicable Coast Guard requirements. [ back to text ]





2 For workers engaged in construction activities, the August 2, 1991, letter to Mr. F. Ridgely Todd, Jr. is superseded by this letter. [ back to text ]