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.

 

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.

 


Septembr 19, 2005

Mr. David C. Paquette, President
Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers
Local Union #474 - New Hampshire & Vermont
1671 Brown Avenue
Manchester, NH 03103

Re: Whether ladders must be provided for access/egress for employees climbing columns to make initial connections; whether the initial connection referenced in Question #42 of Directive Number CPL 02-01-034 must be by two wrench-tight bolts?

Dear Mr. Paquette:

This is in response to your letter dated November 5, 2004, to Ms. Marthe Kent, Regional Director, Region I, of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You ask about the application of the ladder requirements in the Subpart X — Stairways and Ladders to locations where employees climb columns to make initial connections; you also ask about the nature of the initial connection referenced in Question #42 of Directive Number CPL 02-01-034. Your letter was forwarded to this office for handling on November 23, 2004. We apologize for the long delay in responding.

We have paraphrased your questions as follows:

Question (1): During steel erection, employees sometimes climb columns to make initial connections. Are ladders required under §1926.1051(a) for access and egress in this scenario?

Answer: Part 1926 Subpart R — Steel Erection does not specify the means of access and/or egress to be used by connectors when climbing columns to make initial connections. The general construction standard that addresses access and/or egress is Part 1926 Subpart Z. In that standard, §1926.1051(a) provides:

 

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 "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.

As we noted in a recent explanation of this provision in a letter to Mr. Fred Ellen dated April 11, 2005:

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. [Emphasis added.]

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).1 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.240-41). 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).

The ACCSH comments make clear that a ladder is not required at all breaks in elevation. As indicated, the focus of the provision is on "zone[s] where people are going to be moving on a regular basis." The limited movement of one or possibly two connectors on a column to make an initial connection fails to meet that use criterion. Thus, a ladder is not required in the described scenario. Question (2): During the steel erection process, sometimes a connector initially connects one end of a beam that is suspended from a crane. The connector then walks across the suspended beam to connect the other end. Under §1926.756(a)(1) and OSHA's Compliance Directive CPL 02-01-034, is the connector required to secure the suspended beam with at least two wrench-tight bolts prior to crossing the beam?

Answer:

Background
In Subpart R - Steel Erection, §1926.756(a)(1) states:

During the final placing of solid web structural members, the load shall not be released from the hoisting line until the members are secured with at least two bolts per connection, of the same size and strength as show in the erection drawings, drawn up wrench-tight or the equivalent as specified by the project structural engineer of record, except as specified in paragraph (b) of this section. [Emphasis added.]

OSHA Directive 02-01-034 - Inspection policy and procedures for OSHA's steel erection standards for construction contains the following:

Question 42: A connector initially connects one end of a beam. Do OSHA standards allow the connector to then walk across the beam to connect the other end while the beam remains suspended from the crane?

Answer: Yes; this practice is allowed in steel erection. At the time of the SENRAC negotiations, it was a common industry practice to have the ironworker walk across the beam while it is still connected to the crane. This is evidenced by the American National Standard Institute's 1989 consensus standard for Steel erection Safety Requirements (ANSI A10.13-1989), section 9.2 and 9.4. Section 9.2 states: "When connectors are working at the same connecting point, they shall connect one end of the structural member before going out to connect the other end...."

It is also reflected in the Steel Joist Institute's 1994 manual for steel joists, section 105 A.2., which specifically recognizes that two erectors may be on certain joists if the joist is "stabilized by the hoisting cables..." For example, in section 105 A.2. (for LH and DLH series joists), it states that "a maximum weight of two erectors shall be allowed on any unbridged joist if 1)the joist is stabilized by the hoisting cable(s)...."

In view of the industry history recognizing this as a safe practice, where a connector initially connects one end of a beam and then walks across to connect the other end while the beam remains suspended from the crane, the violation of 1926.550 for being on a crane is considered de minimis and no citation will be issued.2 [Emphasis added.]

A de minimis policy is premised on the fact that the violation of the standard (in this case, the incorporated provision of ANSI B30.5 (1968)) has no direct or immediate relationship to employee safety or health.

Analysis
By its terms, the requirement in §1926.756(a)(1) that the members have "at least two bolts per connection" securing them only applies upon the release of the load from the hoisting line. As such, that provision is not applicable to the described scenario, since in that scenario the hoist line has not yet been released.

The de minimis policy in the Directive allows workers to traverse a suspended load — specifically, a hoisted beam, provided it is first "connected" at one end. However, the Directive did not address the extent to which the beam being held by the hoist line had to be "initially connect[ed]" — that is, secured to the other member at one end.

The purpose behind the requirement in the de minimis policy for an initial connection at one end of the beam is to help minimize the movement of the beam while the worker moves across it. Accordingly, the initial connection must be sufficiently secure so as to stabilize the beam and not expose the employee(s) to the falling hazard caused by an unintentional displacement of a beam. Therefore, for the purposes of the Directive, the term "initially connects" means physical attachment to the extent necessary to provide stability by bolting.

We recognized that in many instances the use of two bolts
3 drawn wrench-tight may not allow the worker to adjust the position of the beam at the unconnected end. Therefore, where a second bolt would prevent that adjustment, or where drawing one or more bolts wrench-tight would prevent that adjustment, before the worker traverses the beam it must be connected by at least one bolt. In addition, that bolt must be drawn at least hand-tight.

Furthermore, in all cases the use of tools or items (such as a spud wrench or a driftpin) in the hole instead of bolts would not be considered "initially connect[ed]" because there is too high a likelihood that such tools/items would allow unexpected movement of the beam.

If you need 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.

Sincerely,



Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction

 

 


1 ACCSH Transcripts 6-9-87, p. 231-243, and 6-10-87, p. 3-6. [ back to text ]

 

 

 

 


2 It should be noted that §1926.753(a) in Subpart R provides:

 

 

All the provisions of §1926.550 apply to hoisting and rigging with the exception of §1926.550(g)(2).

In turn, §1926.550 incorporates by reference ANSI B30.5-1968, Safety Code for Crawler, Locomotive and Truck Cranes that states at Section 5-3.2.3e:

The operator shall not hoist, lower, swing, or travel while anyone is on the load or hook.

 

 

[ back to text ]

 

 


3 For the purposes of this letter, when we refer to a "bolt," we are referring to a bolt with a nut.. [ back to text ]