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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 https://www.osha.gov.
March 26, 2010
Re: Use of toeboards across scaffold access points
Question: I have read some OSHA interpretations that suggest a toeboard is not required at a construction scaffold access point if it would pose a greater hazard. I have also seen other references that indicate that toeboards are not required at access openings at all (Federal Register volume 68, pages 23527-23568). Is a toeboard required at a construction scaffold access point?
Answer: In the construction scaffold standard, 29 CFR 1926.451(h)(2) presents two options to address the hazard of falling objects:
Where there is a danger of tools, materials, or equipment falling from a scaffold and striking employees below, the following provisions apply:
(i) The area below the scaffold to which objects can fall shall be barricaded, and employees shall not be permitted to enter the hazard area; or
(ii) A toeboard shall be erected along the edge of platforms more than 10 feet (3.1 m) above lower levels for a distance sufficient to protect employees below, except on float (ship) scaffolds where an edging of (¾ x 1 ½ inch (2 x 4 cm) wood or equivalent may be used in lieu of toeboards.
As indicated in this provision, the requirement for a barricade or toeboard exists "when there is a danger of tools, materials, or equipment falling from a scaffold". If such objects are kept away from the access point, the requirement for a toeboard across the access point or a barricade in the fall zone below the access point would not apply. If objects are not kept away from the access point, either a barricade or toeboard would be required.
We note that, in some instances, such as when a stair tower is used for access, a toeboard across the access point would pose a tripping hazard that would be as great a safety concern as the potential for falling objects. In that case the employer would have to use the barricade option unless there was no danger of tools, materials or equipment falling from the scaffold at that point (in which case there would be no falling object hazard at that point, and therefore no need for a toeboard).
In contrast, there are instances where a toeboard does not pose a tripping hazard at an access point. For example, where employees climb through the guardrail to access the scaffold, a toeboard would not present a tripping hazard. Also, when there is a gate at the access point, in most instances a toeboard can be attached to the gate so that it moves out of the way when the gate is opened.1
Finally, the material you refer to in Federal Register volume 68 in pages 23527-23568, is in a general industry proposed rule for "Walking and Working Surfaces; Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems)," which is not applicable to construction.
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.
Richard E. Fairfax, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction