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 20, 2010

Letter # 20090601-9068

Re: Whether OSHA standards require employees to be tied off while working over water on an aerial lift.

Question: My company requires employees working from an aerial boom lift to wear a harness, lanyard and life vest while working over land near water.  While working in an aerial lift over water they would be allowed to unhook their lanyard from the aerial lift.  If personnel exit the boom lift onto a structure over water, they are required to use fall protection (i.e. a personal fall arrest system) pursuant to Subpart M while working on the structure over water, in addition to wearing a life vest.  Does 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)(v) permit employees working on an aerial lift over water to wear life vests and a personal fall arrest system that is not attached to the boom or basket?

Answer: The fall protection requirements in 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)(v) do not address employees working over water. The applicable requirements for working over water are addressed in 29 CFR 1926.106. However, in similar worksite conditions, Subpart CC, section 1926.1431(k)(10)(i), Cranes and Derricks in Construction, provides an exception to fall protection requirements for employees occupying boom-attached, or suspended personnel platforms over water. This exception provides: "except over water, employees occupying the personnel platform must be provided and use a personal fall arrest system". This exception is limited to construction or marine construction activities only. As the preamble to the cranes and derricks rule explains, "a personal fall arrest system would not be required because in the event that an error occurred that resulted in the employees being in the water, being tied-off would exacerbate the drowning hazard." The same rationale applies for employees working on as aerial lift over water because a similar potential error exists that could expose employees to the same drowning hazard.

Although fall protection is required under 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)(v) for the use of an aerial lift, OSHA considers it a de minimis violation of 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)(v) only where employees on an aerial lift who are wearing a harness, lanyard, and a life vest unhook their lanyard from the boom or basket while working over water.

If you need any 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.


James G. Maddux, Director
Directorate of Construction

Amended: June 18, 2014