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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.
March 2, 2010
Re: Fall protection requirements for employees working on an elevator car frame.
Question (1): Scenario: employees are engaged in construction work while on a platform in an elevator hoistway. The platform sits directly on top of the elevator's car frame. The car frame moves along permanently fastened guide rails, which are the same guide rails that the finished passenger elevator will ride. There are 4 to 6 cables attached to the car frame, with the number depending on the size of the particular car frame. The cables are the permanent cables, which will be used to operate the finished passenger elevator. The other end of each cable is permanently attached to a motor/hoist, which is used to raise and lower the car. The platform that sits on the car frame is equipped with guardrails. Is the employer required to provide personal fall protection in addition to the guardrails for the employees working on the platform (while inside the guardrails)?
Answer (1): No. Title 29 CFR part 1926, Subpart M, applies because the employees are working on a walking/working surface while exposed to a fall hazard.1
Subpart M, §1926.500(b) defines a "walking/working surface" as:
[A]ny surface, whether horizontal or vertical on which an employee walks or works, including, but not limited to, floors, roofs, ramps, bridges, runways, formwork and concrete reinforcing steel but not including ladders, vehicles, or trailers on which employees must be located in order to perform their job duties.
Fall protection requirements for walking/working surfaces are contained within 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(1):
Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safely net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.
Under these provisions of Subpart M, the use of only guardrails to protect the employees from falling here is permissible.
Question (2): When employees are working on the same platform as described in question 1 but are working outside the protection of the guardrails, are they required to tie off to an anchorage point other than the cables that are supporting the elevator car frame?
Answer (2): Section 1926.502(d)(15) prohibits tying off to the cables used to support the elevator car frame. That section provides:
Anchorages used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment shall be independent of any anchorage being used to support or suspend platforms and capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN) per employee attached, or shall be designed, installed, and used as follows:
(i) as part of a complete personal fall arrest system which maintains a safety factor of at least two; and
(ii) under the suspension of a qualified person.
Under this provision, the employees must be tied off to an anchorage point that is independent of the cables used to support the platform. This requirement ensures that the strength of the lifeline preventing an employee's fall is not compromised by its simultaneous use for another load-bearing purpose.2
Richard E. Fairfax, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction
1 Section 1926.450(b), in Subpart L (Scaffolds), defines a scaffold as any "temporary elevated platform (supported or suspended) and its supporting structure (including points of anchorage), used for supporting employees or materials or both." The employees are not working on a scaffold here because the platform that they are working from is directly connected to the top of the elevator's car frame. In other words, it is not an "elevated platform." (emphasis added). [back to text]
2 Your letter suggests that tying off to the elevator car frame's cables is sufficient here because the fall protection system as a whole would exceed the minimum safety factor of two required by section 1926 502(d)(l5)(i). Even if the fall protection system satisfies section 1926 502(d)(15)(i)'s minimum safety factor requirement, it violates an essential element of section 1926.502(d)(15), which prohibits employees from tying off to the same anchorage point that supports the platform. [back to text]