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.

June 19, 2006

Scott A. Knowlen
Cianbro
One Hunnewell Square
P.O. Box 1000
Pittsfield, Maine 04967

Re: Whether construction workers while inside crane cabs or enclosed break areas on barges are required to wear life jackets

Dear Mr. Knowlen,

This is in response to your letter dated May 6, 2005, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You asked about requirements in the construction Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment standard, Part 1926 Subpart K. We apologize for the long delay in responding.

We have paraphrased your question as follows:

Scenario: Workers are engaged in construction work while on a barge that is in non-navigable waters.

Question: Are these employees required to wear life jackets while inside a crane cab or in an enclosed break area (such as a small building secured to the barge deck)?

Answer: Section 1926.106(a) provides:

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 a September 28, 1999, letter to Mr. Douglas Walters, we noted that:

...when continuous fall protection is used (without exception) to prevent employees from falling into the water, the employer has effectively removed the drowning hazard, and life jackets or buoyant work vest are not needed ....

 

 

Thus, the response to your question depends on whether the employer in the described scenario has effectively removed the drowning hazard. Since there is always a risk of the barge capsizing, it is not possible to remove the drowning hazard in the scenario you describe. Therefore, the life jacket must be worn irrespective of where the employee is on the barge.

Note that our answer addresses your question with respect to barges on non-navigable waters. For requirements regarding the use of life jackets on barges that are on navigable waters, please consult the U.S. Coast Guard.

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,



Noah Connell, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction