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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.
April 30, 2010
Letter # 20091008-9289
Re: Clarification on controlled access zones for leading edge work.
Question: When using a controlled access zone for leading edge work where one side has no wall or guardrail system to which a control line can be connected, is it permissible to tie control lines to temporary guardrail stanchions 10 feet off the leading edge?
As a preliminary matter, 29 CFR §1926.501(b)(2)(i) states:
Each employee who is constructing a leading edge 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of §1926.502.
This subsection requires the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems for employees doing leading edge work unless the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems. Only if the exception applies may controlled access zones be used as fall protection. The Note to §1926.501(b)(2)(i) states that there is a presumption that instituting the above-listed fall protections is feasible and will not create a greater hazard, and that the employer has the burden of establishing that it is appropriate to implement a fall protection program that complies with §1926.502(k) in lieu of the above listed protections. Your letter mentioned that the majority of the time you use personal fall arrest systems for the erectors of the decking, but not for the foreman or safety monitor. Because you use personal fall arrest systems for the erectors, it appears that personal fall arrest systems are feasible and do not create a greater hazard. In that case, you must use one of the safety systems specified in §1926.501(b)(2)(i) instead of a controlled access zone.
If all of the fall protection systems listed in §1926.501(b)(2)(i) are either infeasible or create a greater hazard to implement, an employer may develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets all of the requirements of §1926.502(k). With respect to controlled access zones, section 1926.502(k)(7) states:
The fall protection plan shall identify each location where conventional fall protection methods cannot be used. These locations shall then be classified as controlled access zones and the employer must comply with the criteria in paragraph (g) of this section.
Therefore, any alternative fall protection plan must comply with all of the requirements of both §1926.502(k) and §1926.502(g). Section 1926.502(g)(l) describes the requirements for the placing of the control lines. Specifically, the section states:
(1) When used to control access to areas where leading edge and other operations are taking place the controlled access zone shall be defined by a control line or by any other means that restricts access.
(i) When control lines are used, they shall be erected not less than 6 feet (1.8 m) nor more than 25 feet (7.7 m) from the unprotected or leading edge, except when erecting precast concrete members.
(iii) The control line shall extend along the entire length of the unprotected or leading edge and shall be approximately parallel to the unprotected or leading edge.
(iv) The control line shall be connected on each side to a guardrail system or wall.
As stated in the standard, control lines must be between 6 feet and 25 feet from the leading edge. Your letter proposes to place the control lines 10 feet off the leading edge. Because 10 feet falls within the range stated in the standard, control lines placed 10 feet off tie leading edge comply with §1926.502(g)(l)(i).
The main question in your letter is whether one end of the control line may be attached to a temporary guardrail stanchion. Section 1926.502(g)(l)(iv) requires that the control line be connected on each side to a guardrail system or wall. To comply with this standard, therefore, the temporary guardrail stanchion to which one end of the control line is attached must qualify as a guardrail system. The requirements for a guardrail system are stated in §1926.502(b). If the temporary guardrail stanchion you propose to attach the control line to complies with the requirements in §1926.502(b), and the other end of your control line is attached to a guardrail system or wall, then your control line would comply with the requirements in §1926.502(g)(1)(iv).
In summary, you may only use a controlled access zone for leading edge work if all of the safety systems listed in §1926.501(b)(2)(i) are either infeasible or create a greater hazard. The controlled access zone must be part of an alternative fall protection plan that complies with §1926.502(k). The controlled access zone must also comply with the requirements listed in §1926.502(g). The control lines used to define the controlled access zone must be between 6 feet and 25 feet from the leading edge and must be attached on either end to a wall or guardrail system. If the control line is attached to a guardrail system, this system must comply with the requirements in §1926.502(b). If all of these requirements are met, the control line and controlled access zone will comply with the construction standard.
Finally, as you may know, the Commonwealth of Virginia administers its own occupational safety and health program under a plan approved and monitored by Federal OSHA. States are required to have regulations that are at least as effective as those promulgated by Federal OSHA. Further information may be obtained by contacting: Ed Hegamyer, Acting Commissioner, Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, Powers-Taylor Building, Richmond, VA 23219-4101.
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.
Bill Parsons, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction