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• Standard Number: 1926.451(g)(2); 1926.451(f)(12); 1926.451(g)(1); 1926.451(a)(6); 1926.451(f)(3); 1926.450


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 16, 2003

MEMORANDUM FOR: MARTHE B. KENT
REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR

FROM: RUSSELL B. SWANSON, DIRECTOR
DIRECTORATE OF CONSTRUCTION

SUBJECT: Installation & removal of tarps and sheeting, §1926.451(g)(2); qualifications of person determining safety on scaffold with wind imposed forces


This is in response to your January 9, 2003, memorandum in which you ask for clarification with respect to the application of Part 1926 Subpart L to the installation/removal of tarps or other sheeting materials on scaffolds.

Question 1: Does the §1926.451(g)(2) fall protection provision apply to the installation and removal of tarps or other sheeting materials on/from scaffolds?

Answer: Section 1926.451(g)(2) applies to the erecting and dismantling of supported scaffolds. This provision states:
... the employer shall have a competent person determine the feasibility and safety of providing fall protection for employees erecting and dismantling support scaffolds....
In order to address the question presented, it must be determined whether or not a tarp or other sheeting material would be considered part of (or a component of) a scaffold.

For the following reasons a tarp or other sheeting material is NOT considered a part of a scaffold, therefore the installation or removal of such is not erection or dismantling of a scaffold and paragraph 1926.451(g)(2) would not apply.

By definition, a tarp or other sheeting material is not a scaffold, part of a scaffold or a component of a scaffold.

Part 1926 Subpart L defines a scaffold as:
any temporary elevated platform ... and its supporting structure (including points of anchorage), used for supporting employees or materials or both.
By implication the definition suggests that a tarp or other sheeting material would not be considered a scaffold or any part thereof. Since the definition refers to any elevated platform and its supporting structure, it encompasses only parts or components that provide structural support or strength to the scaffold. A tarp or other sheeting material used for the purpose of blocking exposure to weather elements does not provide any additional structural support to the scaffold.

In addition, in the Preamble to the Final Rule published in the Federal Register (61 FR 46032, August 30, 1996) the Agency noted that "including points of anchorage" was added to the "definition of scaffold in the final rule to indicate clearly that points of anchorage are considered to be part of a scaffold." Generally anchorage points are tied to or anchored to a building and used to enhance the lateral support of the scaffold. The inclusion of points of anchorage is consistent with the view that the definition includes only structural components, since anchorage points are an integral part of the lateral support for the scaffold.

Also, §1926.451(f)(12) states, "wind screens shall not be used unless the scaffold is secured against the anticipated wind forces imposed." [Emphasis added.] By drawing a distinction between wind screens and "the scaffold," this provision indicates that a wind screen is not considered a part of the scaffold.

The requirements in the standard that relate to "the scaffold" are therefore those that relate to the structure itself, not non-structural items that are attached to it.

The intent of paragraph (g)(2) is to acknowledge the feasibility problems associated with fall protection in erecting and dismantling a scaffold. Those problems are not present when installing and removing tarps.

Section 1926.451(g)(2) was enacted because of feasibility problems when erecting and dismantling a scaffold. Those individuals working on the erection and dismantling of a scaffold are sometimes limited in having suitable tie-off points while on a partially completed/dismantled structure. The Agency recognized that in some cases it might not be feasible to provide fall protection to employees erecting or dismantling scaffolds.

The same feasibility issues are not present when installing and removing a tarp or other sheeting material. Generally, the tarp can be installed after the scaffold is already in place and removed before scaffold dismantling begins. Therefore, the feasibility issues that gave rise to the inclusion of paragraph (g)(2) in the standard are absent from this activity. Applying paragraph (g)(2) to tarps would not be within the regulatory intent.

In sum, the installation and removal of tarps or other sheeting material is not considered erection or dismantling of a scaffold. Therefore, §1926.451(g)(2) does not apply to that work. Instead, the fall protection requirements of §1926.451(g)(1) would apply. This is the case irrespective of whether the employer chooses to install/remove the tarp concurrently with the erection/dismantling of the scaffold, or to do the tarp work before and after the scaffold is erected/dismantled.

Question 2: What are the minimum qualifications of an employee charged with deciding if a scaffold can withstand the additional wind imposed forces resulting from its enclosure (such as by a tarp)?

Answer: Section 1926.451(a)(6) requires that scaffolds be:
... loaded in accordance with [the qualified person's] design....
Section 1926.451(f)(3) states:
Scaffolds and scaffold components shall be inspected ... by a competent person ... after any occurrence which could affect a scaffold's structural integrity.
Under §1926.451(a)(6), it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the addition of a tarp to a scaffold does not overload the scaffold. Therefore, the employer must act reasonably in choosing whom it relies on in making this assessment.

Furthermore, the addition of a tarp or other sheeting material would add lateral loads to the scaffold, which may not have been accounted for in its design. Under §1926.451(f)(3), such an addition would therefore be "an occurrence which could affect a scaffold's structural integrity," requiring a competent person to inspect it and make an assessment.
1

The definition of a competent person in §1926.450 is:
one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are ... hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. [Emphasis added].
The Preamble to the Final Rule published in the Federal Register (61 FR [46059], August 30, 1996) [for] §1926.451(f)(3) states that "a 'competent person' for the purposes of this provision must have had specific training in and be knowledgeable about the structural integrity of scaffolds and the degree of maintenance needed to maintain them."

In order for an employee to assess if a scaffold can withstand the additional, wind-imposed forces from being enclosed, the individual must be a competent person, which in this case means having specific training in and being knowledgeable about the structural integrity of a scaffold and how the loads imposed by a tarp enclosure can affect that integrity.
2


1 Also, note that §1926.451(f)(12) states:
"Work on or from scaffolds is prohibited during storms or high winds unless a competent person has determined that it is safe for employees to be on the scaffold and those employees are protected by personal fall arrest system. Wind screens shall not be used unless the scaffold is secured against the anticipated wind forces imposed." [Emphasis added.] [ back to text ]

2 Note that in Superior Masonry Builders, OSHRC Docket No. 96-1043 (July 3, 2003), the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ruled that an experienced lead laborer who lacked training on the use of wind enclosures was not a "competent person" for purposes of inspecting the scaffold for hazards:
Under Commission precedent a person is found to be competent when he [or she] makes an inspection in a competent manner and makes a reasonable determination that the condition is safe. Superior argues that the lead laborer designated as its competent person was an experienced skilled tradesman who exercised his judgment based on his training and experience. However, experience alone does not qualify the designated employee as a 'competent person.' We find that the lead laborer was not properly trained and therefore was not a competent person. The evidence shows that he was not instructed about the specific hazards presented by attaching enclosures to scaffolding and thus was not capable of identifying the hazard... [Citations omitted.] [ back to text ]

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