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.


August 3, 2004

Ms. Holly Cole
210 Park Avenue
Suite 1350
Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Re: Use of fall protection by deaf employees performing steel erection activities; §1926.760

Dear Ms. Cole:

This is in response to your letter dated July 29, 2004, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), asking for clarification of OSHA's fall protection requirements for employees performing steel erection activities. Specifically, you ask whether the effective use of fall protection methods required in 29 CFR 1926.760 depends on the ability of an employee to hear.

We have paraphrased your questions as follows:

Question: Scenario: I have a deaf employee who will be performing welding operations on structural steel members, steel decking and steel girders. He will not be operating in a Controlled Decking Zone and will not perform connecting activities. Do the fall protection methods required under Part 1926 Subpart R (Steel Erection) depend on the ability of an employee to hear?

Answer: Title 29 CFR 1926.750 (Subpart R) "Scope" states:


This subpart sets forth requirements to protect employees from the hazards associated with steel erection activities involved in the construction, alteration, and/or repair of single and multi-story buildings, bridges, and other structures where steel erection occurs. The requirements of this subpart apply to employers engaged in steel erection unless otherwise specified. This subpart does not cover electrical transmission towers, communication and broadcast towers, or tanks.
*      *      *

Steel erection activities include hoisting, laying out, placing, connecting, welding, burning, guying, bracing, bolting, plumbing and rigging structural steel, steel joists and metal buildings; installing metal decking, curtain walls, window walls, siding systems, miscellaneous metals, ornamental iron and similar materials; and moving point-to-point while performing these activities.

As your employee will be welding structural steel, steel decking and steel girders, under §1926.750(b)(1) he will be considered to be performing steel erection activities. Where employees are engaged in general steel erection activities, an employer must ensure that a sufficient fall protection system is in place. Section 1926.760 (Subpart R) "Fall Protection" states:

Except as provided by paragraph (a)(3) of this section, each employee engaged in a steel erection activity who is on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet (4.6 m) above a lower level shall be protected from fall hazards by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems or fall restraint systems.



As far as we are aware, none of these systems rely on verbal warnings or cues.1

If you need any 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.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction

[Corrected 6/08/2007]





1 Note that none of these systems involve the use of a monitor. In addition, as we understand your scenario, the fall protection exceptions for connecting work and decking work in §1926.760(b) and 1926.760(c) are inapplicable. [ back to text ]