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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.
April 11, 2005
Dee Shoring Company, Inc.
4680 Vawter Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23222
Dear Mr. Ellen
This is in response to your letter dated June 28, 2004, and subsequent telephone conversations with staff at the Directorate of Construction.1 We apologize for the long delay in our response.
We have paraphrased your questions below:
Question 1: Scenario: Employees are on a supported scaffold during erecting and dismantling. While on the scaffold they are using 100% fall protection by being tied off at all times. Under this scenario is there a requirement to have guardrails when on the scaffold's wooden planks?
Answer: No. Section 1926.451(g)(2) states in part:
... the employer shall have a competent person determine the feasibility and safety of providing fall protection for employees erecting and dismantling supported scaffolds. Employers are required to provide fall protection for employees erecting or dismantling supported scaffolds where the installation and use of such protection is feasible and does not create a greater hazard.
In this scenario fall protection is already being used. There is no additional requirement to have guardrails.
Question 2: Do the OSHA standards prohibit tying off to a scaffold?
Answer: No. This issue was addressed in OSHA's April 2, 1998, letter to Mr. Palmer. In that letter OSHA stated:
It is OSHA's position that scaffolding can function as a suitable anchorage for fall arrest systems when the scaffolding section so used is erected and braced such that the criteria of §1926.502(d)(15) are met. This applies whether the scaffold is partially built (i.e., being erected or disassembled) or completely built.
Question 3: During the erection and dismantling of shoring, is it permissible for employees to climb the end frames? Is there a requirement that employees doing this work have fall protection?
Answer: Subpart Q, Concrete and Masonry Construction, sets out the general requirements for formwork. Section 1926.700(b)(2) defines formwork as including shoring:
Formwork means the total system of support for freshly placed or partially cured concrete, including the mold or sheeting (form) that is in contact with the concrete as well as all supporting members including shores, reshores, hardware, braces, and related hardware.
No provision in Subpart Q specifies that employees are prohibited from climbing shoring end frames. While there is no prohibition in Subpart Q against climbing shoring end frames, a related issue is whether employees must be protected from falling while climbing them.
Subpart Q does not address fall hazards during erection and dismantling of shoring. However, Part 1926 Subpart M (Fall protection) applies to "walking/working surfaces." Under §1926.500, the definition of a walking/working surface includes formwork, and therefore shores.2 Where the walking/working surface is an end frame of a shoring system, the employee must be protected under Subpart M.
Under Subpart M, during the erection and dismantling of shoring where employees are climbing on the end frames, employees would be required to be protected from falling under §1926.501(b)(15), which states:
Walking/working surfaces not otherwise addressed. Except as provided in §1926.500(a)(2) or in §1926.501(b)(1) through (b)(14), each employee on a walking/working surface 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system.
Question 4: During the erection and dismantling of shoring, employees enter onto and move within the shoring at numerous, varied points. Are ladders/stairways required under §1926.1051(a) for access and egress?
Answer: Part 1926 Subpart Q does not address access hazards with respect to erecting and dismantling shoring. The general construction standard that addresses access hazards is Part 1926 Subpart X. In that standard, §1926.1051(a) states:
A stairway or ladder shall be provided at all personnel points of access where there is a break in elevation of 19 inches (48 cm) or more, and no ramp, runway, sloped embankment, or personnel hoist is provided. [Emphasis added.]
A "personnel point of access" is defined in §1926.1050(b) as:
[A]ll areas used by employees for work-related passage from one area or level to another. Such open areas include doorways, passageways, stairway openings, studded walls, and various other permanent or temporary openings used for such travel. [Emphasis added.]
The text of the provision reflects the Agency's intention to require a stairway or ladder at common access points — areas where employee traffic is concentrated. The examples reflect that these are typically areas in a building or structure where employees are moving back and forth between task locations, traveling, or crossing over, to carry equipment or enter and exit. In other words, the provision was intended to apply to particular areas where multiple employees would be entering or exiting or passing through.
This intent is also reflected in the provision's regulatory history. In June 1987, the Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) commented on issues presented in the preamble to the proposed standard for Subpart X, including §1926.1051(a).3 During this meeting, ACCSH clarified that the provision should not require a stair or ladder at every instance where an employee could "get from some level to another" but that it was meant for certain "zones where people are going to be moving on a regular basis" (p. 240-241). This provision was aimed at "primary channel(s) for traffic" (p. 240), such as "walking areas, traffic areas, entrance ways and exits" (Tr. 6-10-87 p.6.).
Based on the information you submitted, the employees do not use common areas on the shoring for employee passage; rather, each employee climbs a wide range of crossbars and other parts of the shoring, throughout the shoring, for getting to ever-changing task locations in the shoring. Therefore, a stairway or ladder is not required.
If you need any further information, please contact us by facsimile at: U.S. Department of Labor — OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance 202-693-1689. You can also contact us by mail at the above office, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20210; although, there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.
Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction
1 We understand that although your company is based in Virginia, which administers its own OSHA-approved State plan, you have asked us to address your questions as they pertain to States in which Federal OSHA jurisdiction applies. Our answers address Federal OSHA requirements only. [ back to text ]
2 Subpart M does not define "formwork." We interpret that term as having the same meaning as in the Subpart Q definition, which defines formwork as including shores. [ back to text ]
3 ACCSH Transcripts 6-9-87, p. 231-243, and 6-10-87, p. 3-6. [ back to text ]