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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.
December 20, 2007
Michael A. Matthews
The Melanson Company, Inc.
353 West St. – P.O. Box 523
Keene, NH 03431
Re: Whether certain skylights meet the cover criteria of 1926 Subpart M
Dear Mr. Matthews:
This is in response to your February 14, 2006 letter; we apologize for the long delay in responding. We have paraphrased your question as follows:
Question: Scenario: A roofing company is installing a skylight that its manufacturer claims is "OSHA fall protection compliant." The manufacturer states that the skylight is "rated to hold 775 pounds." However, the construction and rigidity of the skylight seem questionable.
Under the requirements in 1926 Subpart M, 1 once such a skylight is installed, is it necessary to install a cover, guardrails, or use personal fall protection, or does the skylight meet the applicable fall protection requirements?
Answer: We would like first to point out that OSHA is generally precluded from approving or endorsing specific products. Where a manufacturer claims that a product is "OSHA-compliant," it means only that the manufacturer is making that assertion – it does not mean that OSHA has reviewed the product and determined that its use is in compliance with OSHA requirements.
In 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M (Fall Protection), 1926.501(b)(4) states:
(i) Each employee on walking/working surfaces shall be protected from falling through holes (including skylights) more than 6 feet (1.8 m) above lower levels, by personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrail systems erected around such holes. (Emphasis added).
When a cover is used to meet this requirement, it must conform to the criteria in Section 1926.502(i). One of those requirements is in 1926.502(i)(2), which states:
. . . [C]overs shall be capable of supporting, without failure, at least twice the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.
Under these provisions, employees must be protected with personal fall arrest systems, covers that meet the criteria in 1926.502(i), or guardrails. However, if the skylight itself meets the cover criteria in 1926.502(i)(2), as a matter of enforcement policy, OSHA will treat the skylight itself as a cover.2
In the scenario you describe, it is not clear if the manufacturer's assertion that the skylight is "rated to hold 775 pounds" includes a safety factor, and if so, what safety factor was used. If the asserted capacity does not include a safety factor, and if the capacity rating is accurate, then the maximum weight that would be permitted under 1926.502(i)(2) on the skylight would be 387½ pounds. Whether such a skylight is permitted to be used as a cover would depend on whether "the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time" exceeds 387½ pounds.
It is the employer's responsibility to meet the requirements discussed above. If there are indications that the manufacturer's claimed capacity rating may not be accurate, it may be necessary for the employer to either obtain additional information about the skylight's capacity or use a cover (that complies with the requirements), a personal fall arrest system, or guardrails to protect its employees.
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.
Steven F. Witt, Director
Directorate of Construction
1 We note that your company does work in several states, including Vermont. Any State (including Vermont that administers its own OSHA-approved State plan is required by law to have a program of standards and enforcement that is at least as effective as the Federal OSHA requirements. However, it may enact more stringent requirements. Employers in that State are then required to follow the State's more stringent requirements. [ back to text ]
2 This enforcement policy is similar to the requirements regarding skylights for work covered by 1926 Subpart R (Steel erection); see 1926.754(e)(3)(iv) and §1926.754(e)(3)(i). [ back to text ]