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.

June 22, 2017

Ms. Nancy Fletcher
President and CEO
Outdoor Advertising Association of America
1850 M Street NW, Suite 1040
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Ms. Fletcher:

Thank you for your January 19, 2017, and February 14, 2017, correspondence to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the final rule revising and updating the general industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems) standards (29 CFR part 1910, subparts D and I). As you know, OSHA published the final rule on November 18, 2016, and it became effective on January 17, 2017 (81 FR 82494).

This letter responds to both of your letters. It constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your correspondence. Your questions may be paraphrased.

Question 1: Would climbing a fixed ladder in a full body harness and using double lanyards to tie off and maintain 100% connection to the fixed ladder be in compliance with the fall protection requirements in §1910.28(b)(9) if the ladder meets the standard's requirements for anchorages?

Response: The final rule includes a prospective requirement that employers equip fixed ladders (that extend more than 24 feet above a lower level) with a personal fall arrest system or a ladder safety system. The standard states:

§1910.28(b)(9)
Fixed ladders (that extend more than 24 feet (7.3 m) above a lower level).
(i) For fixed ladders that extend more than 24 feet (7.3 m) above a lower level, the employer must ensure:
(A) Existing fixed ladders. Each fixed ladder installed before November 19, 2018 is equipped with a personal fall arrest system, ladder safety system, cage, or well
(B) New fixed ladders. Each fixed ladder installed on and after November 19, 2018, is equipped with a personal fall arrest system or a ladder safety system;
*          *          *          *        *
(ii) When a one-section fixed ladder is equipped with a personal fall protection or a ladder safety system or a fixed ladder is equipped with a personal fall arrest or ladder safety system on more than one section, the employer must ensure:
(A) The personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system provides protection throughout the entire vertical distance of the ladder, including all ladder sections; and
(B) The ladder has rest platforms provided at maximum intervals of 150 feet (45.7 m).

The final rule defines personal fall arrest system as:

§1910.21(b)
Persona/fall arrest system means a system used to arrest an employee in a fall from a walking-working surface. It consists of a body harness, anchorage, and connector. The means of connection may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or a suitable combination of these).

A double lanyard system that consists of a body harness, lanyards and an anchorage meets the definition of personal fall arrest system in the final rule, provided those components meet all of applicable the requirements in §1910.140(c) and (d). For example, the lanyards must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds and anchorages (the fixed ladder in this instance) used to attach to the personal fall arrest systems must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds for each employee attached.

Question 2: Section 1910.28(b)(9) requires that employers equip fixed ladders that extend more than 24 feet above a lower level with a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system. Many fixed ladders on outdoor advertising structures begin significantly above ground level to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing the billboard. To determine whether a fixed ladder extends more than 24 feet above a lower level, is the measurement done from the ground level/lower level to the fixed ladder or from where the ladder starts to the top of it?

Response: For purposes of §1910.28(b)(9), the employer must measure the distance from the ground/lower level to the top of the fixed ladder. The distance the fixed ladder is located above the ground, and thus the distance that a worker climbing on the ladder could fall, determines whether fall protection is required. If that distance exceeds 24 feet, regardless of the length of the ladder, the employer must equip the fixed ladder with fall protection.

Question 3: Many fixed ladders on outdoor advertising structures begin at platforms located 20 feet to 200 feet above the ground. The platform is usually as wide as the billboard catwalks, which could be between 2 to 4 feet in width. To determine whether the fixed ladder extends more than 24 feet above a lower level is the measurement done from the ground or the platform?

Response: As stated previously, the distance a worker could fall from a fixed ladder to a lower level determines the distance the ladder extends above a lower level and thus whether the employer must equip the ladder with fall protection. If the size of a platform is such that a worker climbing the fixed ladder could fall past the platform and more than 24 feet to the ground or a lower level the employer must equip the ladder with fall protection. However, if the platform is large enough that it is not possible for a worker to fall past the platform or fall to the platform and roll over an unguarded edge, the distance the ladder extends above a lower level may be measured from the platform. In the example you provided where the platform is from 2 to 4 feet in width, OSHA believes it is possible that a worker climbing the fixed ladder could fall past the platform and to a lower level. Thus, the distance the ladder is considered to extend above a lower level would be measured from the ground and not from the platform.

Question 4: The final rule requires that employers ensure employees engaged in outdoor advertising operations be physically capable of climbing fixed ladders without fall protection (§§l910.28(b)(10)(ii) and 1910.29(h)). Will OSHA specify any medical evaluations for classifying the physical capability of employees?

Response: No. The final rule gives employers the option to evaluate an outdoor advertising worker's physical capability when engaged in such work to climb a fixed ladder without fall protection either by observing actual climbing or by a physical examination (§1910.29(h)(1)). OSHA does not believe it is necessary to list any specific medical evaluations because the requirements in §§1910.28(b)(10)(ii) and 1910.29(h) only apply when an outdoor advertising worker climbs a fixed ladder without fall protection, which is prohibited on and after November 19, 2018. The final rule requires that employers ensure all fixed ladders installed before November 19, 2018, be equipped with some type of fall protection (i.e., personal fall arrest system, ladder safety system, cage, or well) by that date, and all new fixed ladders and replacements installed on or after November 19, 2018, be equipped with a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system (§1910.28(b)(9)(i)).

Finally, in your February 14, 2017 letter, you requested an extension of the two-year deadline for employers to equip fixed ladders with some type of fall protection (e.g., cage, well, personal fall arrest system, ladder safety system) (§1910.28(b)(9)(i)(A)). OSHA looks forward to further discussing with OAAA on this issue and gathering additional information to address it.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100.

Sincerely,

 

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs