Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1926.500; 1926.501; 1926.502; 1926.503; 1926.760; 1926.502(f); 1926.502(g); 1926.502(b)(10); 1926.501(b)(2); 1926.501(b)(11); 1926.502(b)(2)(i); 1926.502(k); 1926.502(k)(7); 1926.501(b)(9); 1926.501(b)(12); 1926.501(b)(13); 1926.760(c)(3); 1926.750(b)(1); 1926.751


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.

September 26, 2003

Mr. Michael C. Wright, PE, CSP, CPE
Managing Principal
LJB, Inc.
3100 Research Blvd.
PO Box 20246
Dayton, OH 45420-0246

Re: Whether warning lines and/or control access zones can be employed for roofing work (residential and non-residential) on roofs with a slope greater than 4:12

Dear Mr. Wright:

This is in response to your letter dated February 25, 2003, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You ask about the use of warning lines or controlled access zones as fall protection for employees engaged in certain roofing activities. Your letter was forwarded to this office for handling on April 7, 2003. We apologize for the delay in responding.

We have paraphrased your questions below:

Question (1): 29 CFR 1926.500-1926.503 and OSHA Directive Number STD 3-01.A set[s] forth OSHA's requirements with regard to fall protection for certain residential construction activities, including roofing. We are concerned about the fall protection required for workers engaged in residential "roofing work," as that term is described in the Directive, on a roof with a slope greater than 4 feet vertical to 12 feet horizontal.

Specifically, under these circumstances, can we use warning lines instead of conventional fall protection for those workers?

Answer
OSHA's fall protection standard for construction, 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart M (Fall Protection) ("Standard"), as well as its related Directive Number STD 3-01.A ("Directive")1 generally require[s] conventional fall protection (guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, or safety net systems) for work where there is a fall distance of 6 feet or more. Nonetheless, the use of a warning line system, as an alternative, is available in certain circumstances. As outlined below, those circumstances, as relevant to your question, are affected by the following three factors: the activity involved (e.g., roofing); the slope of the roof; and the nature of the work (e.g., residential).

Section 1926.501 defines a warning line as:

* * a barrier erected on a roof to warn employees that they are approaching an unprotected roof side or edge, and which designates an area in which roofing work may take place without the use of guardrail, body belt, or safety net systems to protect employees in the area. [Emphasis added.]

Section 1926.502 (fall protections systems criteria and practices) provides:

* * *
(f) Warning line systems. Warning line systems [See §1926.501(b)(10)] and their use shall comply with the following provisions * * *. [Emphasis added.]

Significantly, the definition and the referenced §1926.501(b)(10) both refer to or relate to roofing work. Thus, under the standard, warning line systems may be used as fall protection for some types of roofing work.2 However, as discussed below, a roof's slope and the residential nature of the work may affect the availability of this fall protection.

Specifically, the referenced §1926.501(b)(10) limits the use of warning lines to low-slope roofs. It provides in part:

* * *
(10) Roofing work on Low-slope roofs. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this section, each employee engaged in roofing activities on low-slope roofs, with unprotected sides and edges 6 feet (1.8m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or a combination of warning line system and guardrail system, warning line system and safety net system, or warning line system and personal fall arrest system, or warning line system and safety monitoring system. * * * [Emphasis added.]

Section 1926.500 defines "Low-slope roof" as:

* * * a roof having a slope less than or equal to 4 in 12 (vertical to horizontal).

Thus, the intended residential roofing activities on roofs with a slope greater than 4 in 12 would not meet the stated criteria of these sections that allow for the use of a warning line system.3 As §1926.501(b)(10) is the only provision that specifically provides for the use of a warning line system (in conjunction with another system) as fall protection for roofing activities, the employer here cannot use such a system unless another provision in the Standard or the Directive applies.

In some circumstances, a warning line system may be used as part of a fall protection plan under §1926.502(k) where an employer demonstrates the infeasibility of conventional fall protection.4 However, as noted in §1926.502(k) itself, the fall protection plan alternative is only available to employees:

engaged in leading edge work, precast concrete erection work, or residential construction work (See §1926.501(b)(2), (b)(12), and (b)(13)) ....

The described work is not precast concrete erection work (see §1926.501(b)(12)). The activity is also not leading edge work (§1926.501(b)(2)). Section 1926.500 defines leading edge activity in terms of a structural surface that forms an edge that advances/changes as additional sections are installed:

The edge of a floor, roof or formwork for a floor or other walking/working surface (such as the deck) which changes location as additional floor, roof, decking or formwork sections are place, formed or constructed. A leading edge is considered to be an 'unprotected side and edge' during periods when it is not actively and continuously under construction.

The roofing work you describe (installing a weather-proofing material over a roof deck) is not within that definition, since it is not a structural surface that forms an edge of a walking/working surface.

However, the activity does fall within the purview of §1926.501(b)(13) of the Standard entitled "Residential Construction." As summarized in the Preamble at 59 Fed. Reg. 40692, this Section, entitled "Residential construction" requires:

that employers engaged in residential construction work protect employees from falls of 6 feet (1.8m) or more to lower levels by the use of one of the three conventional fall protection systems unless such systems are infeasible or would create a greater hazard for affected employees. In those situations, OSHA requires the employer to develop and implement a Fall Protection Plan which meets the criteria of §1926.502(k).... [Emphasis added.]

The Preamble continues at 59 Fed. Reg. 40682:

In particular, OSHA recognizes that there may be circumstances where the use of a warning line system is appropriate, in conjunction with a Fall Protection Plan, to protect workers who are not required to go near unprotected edges. [Emphasis added.]

However, at 59 Fed. Reg. 40695 the Preamble emphasizes:

The Agency considers the implementation of a fall protection plan, outlining alternative fall protection measures, to be a "last resort," allowed only where the other options for fall protection have been exhausted.

In sum, §1926.501(b)(13) presumes feasibility. However, where the employer can demonstrate that conventional fall protection is infeasible and that a warning line is the most protective alternative means of fall protection, it may be used as part of a residential construction Fall Protection Plan. Given the regulatory history and the presumptions set forth in the Standard, the potential for use of warning lines in this instance appears to be remote.

Section XII of the Directive sets forth alternative fall protection systems for certain defined residential roofing work.5 However, it does not include warning line systems as an alternative. Rather, the alternative fall protection systems listed are limited to safety monitors and slide guards. As such, the Directive does not provide a basis for an employer's use of a warning line system.

Question (2): Assuming the same scenario set forth in the first paragraph of Question (1), can controlled access zones be used for residential roofing activities when the roof slope is greater than 4 feet vertical to 12 feet horizontal?

Answer
Our response to your company's question regarding the potential use of "controlled access zones" in conjunction with residential roofing activities parallels our answer to Question (1).

Section 1926.500 defines a "Controlled Access Zone" ("CAZ") as:

* * *an area in which certain work (e.g., overhand bricklaying) may take place without the use of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, or safety net systems and access to the zone is controlled.

Particular requirements associated with its use are delineated in §1926.502(g). More significantly, a summary of its permitted uses under the Standard is set forth in the Preamble at 59 Fed. Reg. at 40677:

OSHA notes that the use of a controlled access zone is permitted only in Overhand brick laying and related work, (§1926.501(b)(9)) and as part of a Fall Protection Plan (see §1926.502(k) for Leading edge work (§1926.502(b)(2)(i) [sic]; Precast concrete work (§1926.501(b)(12); or residential construction work (§1926.501(b)(13)). [Emphasis added.]

As the described roofing activities are not related to overhand brick laying, precast concrete work, or leading edge work6, the only potential in the Standard for use of a controlled access zone again arises in the context of a Fall Protection Plan for residential construction work. This use is set forth in §1926.502(k)(7):

The fall protection plan shall identify each location where conventional fall protection methods cannot be used. These locations shall then be classified as controlled access zones and the employer must comply with the criteria in paragraph (g) [provision detailing the implementation of control access zones] of this section.

Again, the option of a Fall Protection Plan is only available where the employer has overcome the presumption that conventional fall protection is feasible.7

As with warning lines, the Directive does not provide for the use of controlled access zones as an alternative fall protection system for residential roofing activities.

Question (3)(a): We are interested in the availability of alternative fall protection for roofing activities (such as tile, shingle, tar and felt) in the nonresidential construction arena (work not covered by STD 3-0.1A).

In such a setting, can a roofing contractor use controlled access zones or warning lines when engaged in roofing activity on a roof with a slope greater than 4 feet vertical to 12 feet horizontal?


Answer
No. Section 1926.500 defines a steep roof as follows:

Steep roof means a roof having a slope greater than 4 in 12 (vertical to horizontal).

Section 1926.501(11) delineates the fall protection required for employees working on such roofs as follows:

Steep roofs. Each employee on a steep roof with unprotected sides and edges 6 feet (1.8m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems with toeboards, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.8

The Standard does not permit the use of controlled access zones, warning lines, or other alternative fall protection methods for nonresidential roofing activities on steep roofs. Nor does it include nonresidential roofing work as an activity for which a §1926.502(k) fall protection plan may be used as an alternative to conventional fall protection. As mentioned earlier, the roofing work also does not fall under §1926.502(k) as precast concrete erection work or leading edge work.

The Directive only applies to employees engaged in residential construction performing specified activities. As your letter indicates that question (3) only relates to nonresidential construction, the Directive would have no applicability.

[This document was edited on 12/5/12 to strike information that no longer reflects current OSHA policy.]

Question 3(b): What about for metal roofing?

Answer
Some types of metal roofing are installed over a roof deck. The installation of that type of metal roofing is not leading edge work, since it is not structural, and does not form an edge of a walking/working surface. Conventional fall protection under Part 1926 Subpart M is required for this type of work (unless it were done in conjunction with steel erection work).9

Some types of metal roofing serve as the roof structure or metal decking (there is no structural decking below it). The installation of such decking is leading edge work10 and is included in the steel erection standard (Part 1926 Subpart R) as a steel erection activity under §1926.750(b)(1). This activity may be performed in a controlled decking zone as noted in Section 1926.760 Fall Protection:

(c) Controlled Decking Zone (CDZ). A controlled decking zone may be established in that area of the structure over 15 and up to 30 feet above a lower level where metal decking is initially being installed and forms the leading edge of a work area. * * * [Emphasis provided.]

Section 1926.760(c)(3) continues:

* * *The CDZ shall be marked by the use of control lines or the equivalent. Examples of acceptable procedures for demarcating CDZ's can be found

in Appendix D to this subpart. * * *

Note that 1926.751 defines "controlled decking zone" as:

an area in which certain work (for example, initial installation and placement of metal decking) may take place without the use of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, fall restraint systems, or safety net systems and where access to the zone is controlled. [Emphasis provided.]

In sum, the use of control lines as part of a controlled decking zone is permissible for metal roofing activity that falls within §1926.750(b)(1) of the Steel Erection Standard.

If you need any additional information, please contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance, fax # 202-693-1689. You can also contact us by mail at the above office, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, although there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.


Sincerely,


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction


1 STD3-01.A is the plain language rewrite of STD3.1, issued December 8, 1995, which in turn superseded, with respect to residential construction, the July 12, 1995, fall protection enforcement policy memorandum of Deputy Assistant Secretary James W. Stanley. [ back to text ]


2 The term "Roofing work" is defined in §1926.500 of the Standard and in VIII.B.4 of the Directive. We assume for the purposes of this response that the work to be performed is within the purview of [that] definitions. [ back to text ]


3 See Question (3) below for a discussion of the conventional fall protection provided for in the Standard for "Steep roofs." [ back to text ]


4 The Preamble at 59 Fed. Reg.40685 notes:

A contractor attempting to establish infeasibility will be required to establish the worksite-specific circumstances that preclude reliance on conventional fall protection to protect employees from fall hazards. For example, the employer will be required to establish that the available personal fall arrest systems cannot be used in a particular work area due to design or equipment constraints. The employer will need to indicate the particular problem (such as inability to provide safe anchorage; danger of lifeline entanglement; likelihood that lifelines, especially self retracting lifelines, will be mired in grout; likelihood that completion of work would be prevented by fall protection; and inability of fall arrest systems to function due to the configuration of the work area [ ) ]* * * It will not be sufficient for the employer to merely assert that it is impossible to use fall protection equipment. [ back to text ]

5 As in the Standard, the Directive sets forth specific residential roofing variables reflecting slope and roof type that affect the availability of the alternative fall protection options. [ back to text ]


6 See earlier discussion on leading edge work. [ back to text ]


7 The previous discussion on "feasibility" in footnote 3 is equally applicable here. [ back to text ]


8 It should be noted that the definition of "Steep roof" and the conventional fall protection delineated in this Section would have equal application to the residential roofing activities referenced in Questions (1) and (2). [ back to text ]


9 If this were done during and as part of a steel erection activity (§1926.750(b)(1)), then this work would be covered under the steel erection standard under §1926.750(b)(2). In that case, the fall protection requirements in §1926.760 would apply. [ back to text ]


10 Section 1926.751 defines "Leading edge" as:

the unprotected side and edge of a floor, roof, or formwork for a floor or other walking/working surface (such as deck) which changes location as additional floor, roof, decking or formwork sections are placed, formed or constructed. [Emphasis provided.][ back to text ]

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