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.

August 1, 2012

Mr. Edwin D. Hill

International President
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
900 Seventh Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Mr. Hill:

Thank you for your February 18, 2011, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter requested a clarification of 29 CFR 1910.183(i) and 1926.551(i) for using helicopters to work on electric transmission systems.

The health and safety of workers in the aviation industry present complex jurisdictional issues between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In general, FAA has exercised its statutory authority over the working conditions of crew members. Therefore, OSHA may be precluded from conducting enforcement activity relative to the working conditions of members of an aircraft's crew.[1] This determination is made on a case by case basis. Because FAA could have authority in the situations you describe, we have forwarded your letter to the FAA for their review of FAA authority and applicable regulations.

Where OSHA has enforcement authority in a situation involving use of a helicopter during work on electric transmission systems, relevant OSHA standards include 29 CFR 1910.183, 1910.269, 1926.551, and 1926 subpart V.

Sections 1910.183(i) and 1926.551(i) concern hooking and unhooking loads. Although the language is not identical, the requirements are similar, as follows:

Hooking and unhooking loads. When employees perform work under hovering craft, a safe means of access shall be provided for employees to reach the hoist line hook and engage or disengage cargo slings. Employees may not be permitted to perform work under hovering craft except when necessary to hook or unhook loads.

Sections 1910.269 and section 1926, subpart V, apply to the operation/maintenance and construction, respectively, of electric transmission and distribution lines and equipment. These sections contain requirements such as fall protection equipment and clearance from nearby power lines that are not deenergized.

As OSHA stated in a January 9, 1987, letter to Mr. Robert V. Citrolo, President of Local 503 IBEW, the use of helicopters is not specifically prohibited by 29 CFR 1926.551 or 29 CFR part 1926, subpart V. Similarly, the use of helicopters is not specifically prohibited by 29 CFR 1910.183 or 1910.269. However, employers must comply with all applicable requirements in 29 CFR 1910.183, 1910.269, 1926.551 and 1926, subpart V.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. Please be aware that OSHA's enforcement guidance is subject to periodic review and clarification, amplification, or correction. Such guidance could also be affected by subsequent rulemaking. In the future, should you wish to verify that the guidance provided herein remains current, you may consult OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry and Agriculture Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.


Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

[1]Section 4(b)1 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act provides, "Nothing in this Act shall apply . . .with respect to which other Federal agencies . . . exercise statutory authority to prescribe or enforce standards or regulations affecting occupational safety and health." In other words, OSHA is preempted from enforcing its regulations if a working condition is regulated by another Federal agency.

The FAA has the statutory authority to issue regulations concerning safety and health issues in the airline industry. In 1975, the FAA issued a Policy Statement wherein they asserted jurisdiction "over the health and safety of crewmembers onboard aircraft in operation." 40 Fed. Reg. 29114 (July 10, 1975). The FAA's assertion of authority extends "from the time [an aircraft] is first boarded by a crewmember, preparatory to a flight to the time the last crewmember leaves the aircraft after completion of that flight . . . even if the engines are shut down." Because FAA has exercised its statutory authority over the working conditions of crew members, OSHA is preempted from exercising its jurisdiction over those working conditions.