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.

July 17, 2014
Mr. Danny Bost
Progress Energy
P.O. Box 1551
New Hill L&S
Raleigh, North Carolina 27602

Dear Mr. Bost:

Thank you for your correspondence to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for a clarification of OSHA’s Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution standard, 29 CFR 1910.269. This constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence.

Your scenario and questions are paraphrased below, and our responses follow.

Scenario: Progress Energy requires trainees to use fall protection during pole climbing training. Progress Energy also requires skilled workers to use fall protection when they are getting recertified in climbing skills. Progress Energy’s current policy is for the employees to use a BuckSqueeze climbing belt and a self-retracting lanyard attached to a body harness. The employees develop the skills necessary to properly adjust and use the BuckSqueeze below the four-foot mark on the pole before they continue the training at heights greater than four feet above the ground.

Question #1: Can Progress Energy eliminate the use of the self-retracting lanyard during training above four feet if the trainee has demonstrated proficiency with, and uses, the BuckSqueeze system?

Reply #1: Yes. On April 11, 2014, OSHA updated 29 CFR 1910.269, effective July 10, 2014 (https://www.osha.gov/FedReg_osha_pdf/FED20140411.pdf).[1] Paragraph (g)(2)(iv)(C)(2) of the updated standard states that “each employee in elevated locations more than 1.2 meters (4 feet) above the ground on poles, towers, or similar structures shall use a personal fall arrest system, work-positioning equipment, or fall restraint system, as appropriate, if the employer has not provided other fall protection meeting” 29 CFR 1910, Subpart D. Although OSHA does not certify, endorse or approve specific safety products, after evaluating the material you provided, it appears that the BuckSqueeze system (without a self-retracting lanyard), used as work positioning equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, can provide the fall protection required by the standard for trainees climbing more than four feet above the ground. Employees may not use the BuckSqueeze as an exclusive form of fall protection at those heights, however, until they have demonstrated proficiency in the use of the equipment. Also, please note the requirements for work positioning equipment at §1910.269(g)(2)(iii) and (iv).

Question #2: Can Progress Energy eliminate the use of the self-retracting lanyard with the skilled climbers while they are recertifying their climbing skills?

Reply #2: Yes. The prior version of §1910.269 generally did not require qualified employees to use fall protection when climbing or changing position. The updated standard continues that policy for a short time, providing that “[u]ntil March 31, 2015, a qualified employee climbing or changing location on poles, towers, or similar structures need not use fall protection equipment, unless conditions, such as, but not limited to, ice, high winds, the design of the structure (for example, no provision for holding on with hands), or the presence of contaminants on the structure, could cause the employee to lose his or her grip or footing.” 29 CFR 1910.269(g)(2)(iv)(C)(3). However, starting April 1, 2015, there will no longer be an exception for qualified employees climbing or changing location. On and after that date, “each qualified employee climbing or changing location on poles, towers, or similar structures must use fall protection equipment unless the employer can demonstrate that climbing or changing location with fall protection is infeasible or creates a greater hazard than climbing or changing location without it.” 29 CFR 1910.269(g)(2)(iv)(C)(3).

Therefore, through March 31, 2015, OSHA generally will not require qualified employees to use fall protection when climbing or changing position.2 And after that date, the BuckSqueeze system (without a self-retracting lanyard), used as work positioning equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, can provide required fall protection as explained in OSHA’s response to Question #1.

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 Agricultural Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.

Sincerely,

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

[This document was edited on 9/14/2015 to strike information that no longer reflects current OSHA policy.]


[1 Please note that OSHA has issued a temporary enforcement policy stating that through October 31, 2014, no citations will be issued under the updated version of §1910.269 to employers who are in compliance with the prior version of the standard. See https://www.osha.gov/dep/enforcement/ subpartV-enforcement-memo.html. ]

2 An employee who has previously demonstrated proficiency in climbing safely is qualified unless: (1) there is an indication that the employee is not climbing safely; (2) the employer introduces new technology, new types of equipment, or changes in procedures that involve different work practices for safe climbing; or (3) the employee has not climbed a pole in the past year. See 29 CFR 1910.269(a)(2)(v).