Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents Standard Interpretations - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1926.501(b)(5); 1926.1053; 1926.1053(b)(22); 1926.603(a)(8)
• Status: Archived

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


April 26, 1995

Christopher Seniuk, M.P.A. C.S.P. C.I.H.
Assistant Vice President
Director of Safety and Health Services
Lovell Safety Management Co., Inc.
161 William Street
New York, N.Y. 10038-2607

Dear Mr. Seniuk:

This is in response to your letter of January 20 in which you raise a number of concerns and questions about a December 23, 1994 letter from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to the National Association of Reinforcing Steel Contractors (NARSC). I apologize for the delay of the response.

Your first question concerned whether or not fall protection is to be used when reinforcing steel is being installed. Your specific concern was with a December 23, 1994, letter from OSHA to the National Association of Reinforcing Steel Contractors (NARSC) in which we stated "fall protection is not normally required when employees are moving" on reinforcing steel. Please be advised that our response applies only to reinforcing steel (re-bars) used in concrete structures; the letter does not apply to other types of reinforcing steel.

With regard to whether citations are to be issued prior to or after precast concrete slab connecting bolts are secure or the reinforcing wires have been stressed, please be advised that the duty to provide fall protection arises when there is exposure to the fall hazard and is independent of the two conditions listed.

OSHA is not aware of any documentation indicating there is a problem with falls from vertical walls or cages built in place. If you have any such information we would appreciate you sending a copy to OSHA for review.

Your fourth concern was the application of OSHA's job-made ladder requirements to rebar cages. Proper spacing of the rebars used as rungs would, of course, be an important consideration in evaluating the access, as would other requirements contained in Subpart X. Please understand, our response to Mr. Codding was oriented to the issue of tying-off during access; it should not be read to mean that OSHA has deemed all rebar configurations to be equivalent to a ladder, nor that regardless of spacing rebar assemblies may be used in lieu of a ladder. For example, as you correctly point out, untied rebar used as a ladder can pose a serious hazard.

Your next point concerned carrying loads while climbing the rebar. Subpart X allows loads to be carried on a ladder provided the load does not cause the climbers to lose their balance. OSHA has no information indicating that carrying rebars, as described in the NARSC letter, should be prohibited.

With respect to pile drivers, fall protection is covered by 29 CFR 1926.603(a)(8). Subparts M and X do not affect that requirement.

Your final point concerns the need for fall protection on rebar assemblies at heights less than 24 feet. Please be advised that fall protection is required at heights of six feet or more once the employee has reached the level of the work to be performed. Fall protection is also required for these same employees during access to heights exceeding 24 feet.

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Roy Gurnham or Mr. Dale Cavanaugh of my staff in the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance at (202) 219-8136.

Sincerely,



James W. Stanley,
Deputy Assistant Secretary



January 20, 1995

Mr. James Stanley
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210

RE: 12/23/94 Interpretation Letter to N.A.R.S.C.

Dear Jim:

Recently, I received a copy of an 23 December 1994 interpretation letter from the Agency to the National Association of Reinforcing Steel Contractors (NARSC) responding to some questions posed by their Safety Specialist. For your information, copies of correspondence have been enclosed.

Upon reviewing the interpretation letter and the revised Fall Protection Standard for Construction, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M, a number of questions have arisen.

The first question from NARSC was whether fall protection (a safety net or a fall arrest system) is to be used when installing reinforcing steel. We have been informing our clients that fall protection is required for this task. However, the 23 December 1994 interpretation letter indicates that "fall protection is not normally required when employees are moving" on reinforcing steel. Our review of the standard indicates that fall protection is required unless workers are connecting steel or precast concrete. Once the bolts are in, we are under the belief that fall protection is required. Does the agency concur?

The second question posed by the NARSC correspondence involves the agency proposing citations for failing to provide fall protection during precast concrete and slab installation work. We are under the impression that proposed citations would be issued for this type of work once the connecting bolts are secure or the reinforcing wires have been stressed. Does the agency concur with this impression?

The attached NARSC correspondence indicated "there is no history of a problem with falls from vertical walls or cages". We possess no documentation that would indicate there are "no problems" with falls from vertical walls or cages. Does the Agency posses any information to substantiate the opinion expressed by NARSC?

The fourth question expressed by the NARSC discusses the use of reinforcing steel (rebar) as a ladder. We understand the requirements for the job made ladders in Subpart X however, we do not believe rebar can be fashioned to those dimensions specified by Subpart X. Rebar is manufactured in various sizes and may not be installed to those tolerances specified in Subpart X.

Additionally, the use of untied rebar as a ladder can represent a serious fall hazard. The 23 December 1994 interpretation letter allows worker movement horizontally and vertically on rebar assemblies built in place without the use of fall protection. Also, the letter states that "OSHA considers the multiple hand holds and foot holds on rebar assemblies as providing similar foot protection as that provided by a fixed ladder." Is the Agency allowing a variation of tolerances and specifications outlined in Subpart X? If so, will these variations in dimensions and load capacities be applied to manufactured ladders?

The NARSC correspondence also indicates that the use of fall protection complicates the "carrying of rebar up the wall for installation". We have always stressed safety when climbing a ladder however, we can not comprehend how carrying a load of rebar on one's shoulder while climbing can be considered an acceptable work practice. Is the agency permitting this combination material movement and climbing technique as an acceptable industry practice?

The NARSC states that workers in other industries are permitted to climb without fall protection and then tie off at the point of work. Although vertical standards for the telecommunication and power distribution industries allow for free climbing by qualified workers to the work area, NARSC states that workers are permitted to climb pile drivers without fall protection. We are under the impression that pile drivers without ladders would fall under the dangerous equipment section of 29 CFR 1926, Subpart M, requiring fall protection. We also believe that pile drivers with ladders over twenty four feet in length require fall protection. Does the Agency concur with this opinion?

Finally the 23 December 1994 interpretation letter states that fall protection is not required when climbing or otherwise moving along rebar at a height below 24 feet. The interpretation would lead the reader to believe that fall protection is only required for rebar work occurring at heights greater than 24 feet. We believe this interpretation negates the enforcement impact of 29 CFR 1926, Subpart M on iron workers performing activities outside the scope of steel erection.

Please submit a written response to me in writing regarding this matter. On behalf of the construction employers we currently serve, I wish to thank you for your speedy reply.

Sincerely,



Christopher Seniuk M.P.A. C.S.P. C.I.H.
Assistant Vice President
Director of Safety and Health Services

Attachment



December 23, 1994

Mr. Fred H. Codding
National Association of Reinforcing
Steel Contractors
10382 Main Street
Post Office Box 280
Fairfax, VA 22030

Dear Mr. Codding:

Your December 8 letter addressed to Ms. Barbara Bielaski requesting an interpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) final rule addressing fall protection during rebar assembly construction has been forwarded to the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance for response.

With regard to whether paragraph 1926.501(b)(5) of the final rule on subpart M applies to employees while moving vertically and/or horizontally on the vertical face of rebar assemblies built in place, please be advised that fall protection is not normally required when employees are moving. OSHA considers the multiple hand holds and foot holds on rebar assemblies as providing similar protection as that provided by a fixed ladder. Similarly, no fall protection is necessary while moving point to point for heights below 24 feet.

As is required by the fixed ladder standard, an employee must be provided with fall protection when climbing or otherwise moving at a height more than 24 feet. Other provisions of the ladder requirements might have application, however, many would be treated on a de minimis basis.

If we can be of any further assistance please contact me or Mr. Dale Cavanaugh of my staff at (202) 219-8136.

Sincerely,



Roy F. Curnham, P.E., J.D.
Director
Office of Construction and Maritime
Assistance



December 8, 1994

Barbara Bielaski, Safety Specialist
OSHA
Room N-321
Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Ms. Bielaski:

The purpose of this letter is to request that OSHA issue a clarification as to the fall protection requirements for installation of reinforcing steel (placing rebar) as they may be impacted by OSHA's moving fall protection for placing rebar from Subpart Q to the Subpart M effective February 6, 1995. The requested clarification should focus on the fall protection requirements (if any) for Iron Workers while they are ascending to their place of work (work station) upon vertical assemblies of reinforcing steel being built in place for the construction of vertical walls and columns and moving horizontally on those structures.

We submit that Iron Workers climbing or moving horizontally on the vertical face of rebar assemblies built in place should be exempt from the six foot 100 percent fall protection rule of new Subpart M for the following reasons:

1. There is no history of a problem of falls from vertical walls or column assemblies while they are being constructed in place. In addition, the 1988 Preamble to Subpart Q stated, in part, that "no additional requirements were needed in this subpart to protect employees while they erect reinforcing steel."

2. We are not aware that citations have been given for Iron Workers climbing and moving point to point under the Fall Protection Provisions of Subpart Q.

3. Under the circumstances described Iron Workers are climbing or moving on what is the equivalent of a ladder of reinforcing steel.

4. There is a greater hazard or it is infeasible to provide 100 percent fall protection for Iron Workers while they are ascending rebar walls and rebar column assemblies that are being constructed in place.

When Iron Workers carry rebar up a wall they are building, they do so on their upper arms while using their hands and feet to climb. It is virtually impossible to do this and reach down to undo a lanyard (when double lanyards are used). Further, a positioning device (wall hook or chain) is approximately 18 to 20 inches in length. Hooking and unhooking these devices for each move also would create a greater hazard when moving up and across these vertical assemblies.

Those working on ladders, scaffolds, pile drivers, telephone poles with lag bolt rungs and other stationary devices are permitted to climb unencumbered and without fall protection to their point of work where they then tie off. Designated climbers are permitted to ascend unencumbered and without fall protection to their work station where they then tie off in these and other analogous work activities.

We recognize and continue to support the requirement that when Iron Workers reach their work stations they must be tied off at all times. We also agree with those OSHA representatives who have stated that they have not experienced a problem with this. Based on the fact that there is no history of falls by Iron Workers while climbing these wall and column assemblies, we request that OSHA's clarification address paragraph 1926.501(5) formwork and reinforcing steel clearly stating that Iron Workers are not required to be tied off while climbing or moving horizontally, but shall be protected from falling 6 feet or more during all times while at their work station.

We respectfully wish to emphasize the urgency of this request for clarification. Our contractors need a clear and unambiguous understanding of the fall protection requirements for Iron Workers under all circumstances and most especially in this gray area while ascending and moving from point to point.

In the event additional study is needed before the February 6, 1995, effective date for Subpart M, it is requested that an administrative stay of the reinforcing steel provisions be issued as was discussed in our earlier meeting. We are available to assist in any way possible.

Very truly yours,



Fred H. Codding



December 1994

OSHA Clarification on Rebar

Assembly Fall Protection

On December 8, 1994, I wrote to OSHA as a follow-up to numerous discussions with OSHA officials and requested a clarification as to the impact of the new Subpart M on fall protected requirements for the installation of reinforcing steel. (A copy of the letter was previously sent to members.) The new Subpart M is effective February 6, 1995, and transfers fall protection from Subpart Q.

Paragraph 1926.501(b)(5) of Subpart M literally states that fall protection through personal fall arrest systems, safety nets or positioning devices shall be used when an Iron Worker can fall 6 feet or more. We objected that this was impractical, impossible and created a greater hazard for Iron Workers moving vertically or horizontally on rebar assemblies being built in place. (Reports began to come in from members that OSHA field personnel were stating they intended to issue citations for this.)

We were successful in obtaining the enclosed clarification just received from OSHA's Director of Construction Compliance. It provides that Iron Workers are not required to have the foregoing fall protection when moving point to point on rebar assemblies for heights below 24 feet. Above that height certain ladder standard provisions may come into play.

The comments received by our office have been favorable towards this clarification since it covers an immense amount of the work done by our members and is a realistic result. We had support for this effort from a number of other groups and individuals.

You are free to provide this "Clarification" and our December 8th letter to other contractors, safety representatives and others, even field OSHA people should that become necessary.

Please call or write if you have any questions.



Fred H. Codding



November 29, 1994

Barbara Bielaski, Safety Specialist
OSHA
Room N-321
Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D. C. 20210

Dear Ms. Bielaski:

The purpose of this letter is to request a clarification as to the impact of the move of fall protection for installation of reinforcing steel from Subpart Q to the new Subpart M.

When climbing a vertical wall or column, in connection with installing reinforcing steel, must a safety net or double lanyard be used before the work site is reached (where the positioning device is hooked on)? It was noted that (1) citations had not been given for not using these under the fall protection provisions of Subpart Q (concrete) which were moved to M; (2) there was no history of a problem with falls from vertical walls or cages; (3) that rodmen climb what is equivalent to a ladder of rebar; and (4) that there is some confusion in OSHA staff's interpretations - one Regional Director saying he would not cite a contractor when this is done while other OSHA representatives said this is a gray area and could cause the six (6) foot rule to be applied. This would be a major complication for rodmen carrying rebar up a wall for installation.

As an example, when rodmen (Iron Workers) carry rebar up a wall they are building, they do so on their upper arms while using their hands to climb. It is virtually impossible to do this and reach down to undo a lanyard (when double lanyards are used). Further, a positioning device (wall hook or chain) is some 18 to 20 inches in length. Hooking and unhooking this device for each move also creates a greater hazard when building a wall.

Finally, those working on ladders, scaffolds, pile drivers, telephone poles with lag bolt rungs and other stationary devices are permitted to climb to their point of work where they then tie off. Climbers are also permitted in other industries.

Our recommendation is that when working on shear walls, cages and columns that the Iron Worker be required to tie off when he reaches the point of work.

Please advise if we provide any further information at this time.

Very truly yours,



Fred H. Codding



Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents Standard Interpretations - (Archived) Table of Contents