- Standard Number:
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 https://www.osha.gov.
March 7, 2008
Mr. John D. Pyle
Kwajalein Range Services, LLC
P.O. Box 1526
APO, AP 96555
Dear Mr. Pyle:
Thank you for your letter of December 1, 2007, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter has been forwarded to OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) for response. You had questions concerning the use of pole climbing gaffs and thin-barked trees. Your paraphrased questions and our response follow.
Question #1: Does 29 CFR 1910.268(g)(3)(iv)(A), which prohibits the use of pole climbers when working in trees, apply to tree trimming activities and workers who are not engaged in telecommunications work and are not working near telecommunications lines?
Response #1: No. The scope of OSHA's Telecommunications standard, 1910.268, is limited to work performed at telecommunications centers and telecommunication field installations. Telecommunications field work is defined at 1910.268(a)(1):
Field work includes the installation, operation, maintenance, rearrangement, and removal of conductors and other equipment used for signal or communication service, and of their supporting or containing structures, overhead or underground, on public or private rights of way, including building or other structures.
29 CFR 1910.268(a)(1) (emphasis in original).
If the activity does not qualify as telecommunications field work as defined at 1910.268(a)(1), such as the maintenance of public and private rights of way, then 1910.268 does not apply.
Question #2: Could the use of pole gaffs1 meet the 29 CFR 1910.268(g)(3)(iv)(A) requirement for "specifically designed tree climbers" when climbing thin-bark trees near telecommunication lines?
Response #2: No. Pole gaffs and tree gaffs have different design criteria. The specifications for personal climbing equipment, which include climbing gaffs, are found in ASTM standard F 887-97, Standard Specifications for Personal Climbing Equipment. Section 8 of the standard, Climber Gaffs, provides not only for differences in the minimum length of pole and tree gaffs, but also subjects pole gaffs to additional requirements related to the angle of the gaff as well as the relative positions of the point of the gaff and the stirrup.2 It is possible that a manufacturer may specifically design a gaff for thin bark trees; however it still must meet the design criteria for tree gaffs, not pole gaffs. Pole gaffs have not been specifically designed for trees, thin-bark or otherwise; they have been designed for poles.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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 may consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the OSHA Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
1 Gaffs are the "spur" portion of the climber assembly that penetrates the wood, allowing the employee to climb the tree or pole. [ back to text ]
2 Note 1 of ASTM F 887-97 states that "[d]egree of angle of the gaff, measured as shown, shall range from 11º to 17º, and the point of the gaff shall be a minimum of 3/8 in. (9.5 mm) above the lowest point of the leg iron stirrup. Tree gaffs are excluded from this requirement." (emphasis added). [ back to text ]