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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 25, 2006
Mr. Jody English
138 Rook Street
Battle Creek, MI 49014
Dear Mr. English:
This is in regard to questions you raised with this office in a December 28, 2004, 1 letter and in subsequent communications regarding your "Type II guardrail support" device for use on ladder jack scaffolds.2 We have paraphrased your questions as follows:
Question: I have developed a safety rail support for use on a ladder jack scaffold system. This device is intended to support a hand rail to help employees maintain their balance while walking and working between the open span between the ladders. I have submitted engineering data regarding the strength of this device showing that it exceeds a 4:1 safety factor when a "worst-case" force is applied. Would this device meet the applicable OSHA requirements?
Answer: As you are aware, OSHA is generally precluded from approving or endorsing specific products. The variable working conditions at job sites and possible alteration or misapplication of an otherwise safe piece of equipment could easily create a hazardous condition beyond the control of the equipment manufacturer. However, where appropriate, we try to give some guidance to help employers assess whether products are appropriate to use in light of OSHA requirements.
Due to resource constraints, we have not undertaken an assessment of your engineering information, nor have we made an assessment regarding what OSHA requirements would apply to the rail support device. However, we note that you developed a "worst-case scenario" estimate of the maximum load that you would anticipate might be imposed on the rail support when used in a ladder jack scaffold. According to your engineering tests results, your rail support device has more than a 4:1 safety factor with respect to that force.
Given the loads you have assumed, the most stringent strength criteria requirement in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart L (Scaffolds) that is potentially applicable to a handrail support device would be the 4:1 safety factor in §1926.451(a)(1) (keep in mind that we have not made a determination as to whether this provision would be applicable). Assuming that your estimated "worst-case scenario" regarding applied forces were not exceeded, your data indicates that your rail support device would meet or exceed §1926.451(a)(1)'s 4:1 safety factor.
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.
Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction
1 On September 15, 2004, we responded to your original letter dated July 21, 2004. In your December 28, 2004, letter and subsequent communications, you refined your original questions and asked for additional information. [ back to text ]
2 You also provided written product information and additional drawings from an engineering firm dated March and April 2005. [ back to text ]