|April 27, 2004
Mr. James Stewart
Director of Research and Development/Senior Ergonomist
Essential Safety Products
939 East 62nd Avenue
Denver, Colorado 80216
Dear Mr. Stewart:
Thank you for your July 8, 2002 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. You had specific questions regarding rescue times and self-rescue activity related to work covered by 1910.268 and 1910.269. I apologize for the delay in providing this response. Your paraphrased inquiries and our reply follows. Please note that our responses are applicable to work covered by both 1910.268 and 1910.269.
Your letter referenced OSHA's November 9, 1998 letter to Mr. Michael T. Williams at Vertical Access Systems and Technology, which addressed the use of descent control devices in construction. The nature of Mr. Williams' request for interpretation focused on the use of descent control devices as work positioning devices in the course of normal construction operations. The use of descent control devices as emergency self-rescue gear -- one of the subjects of your letter -- was not part of Mr. Williams' original inquiry and was not specifically addressed in OSHA's November 9, 1998 response.
Question #1: What is the maximum allowable time for an employee to remain suspended from a harness and lanyard after falling or being ejected from a vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating work platform?
Answer: OSHA standards do not provide specifically for a maximum allowable time to remain suspended in a harness following a fall event. There are, however, circumstances that, when taken in consideration with other OSHA requirements, could result in a maximum allowable suspension time. An example of this is 1910.269(b)(1)(ii), where the standard requires that employees exposed to electric shock at fixed work locations must be able to be reached by trained persons within four (4) minutes. 1 Therefore, if a fall event occurred at a fixed location following an electric shock, then the employee could be suspended no longer than four (4) minutes after being discovered, as a result of the requirements of 1910.269(b)(1)(ii).
Question #2: Is an employee who has fallen or is ejected from a vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating work platform (bucket truck) and uses either a descent control device or rope ladder to descend required to remain with some type of lanyard, retractable lifeline, rope grab, or similar device during self rescue when over four (4) feet above the ground to ensure that they are protected from another unintentional fall?
Answer: When performing self-rescue after an arrested fall, the employee may rely on the self-rescue device for the period of time it takes to effect the self-rescue and not be required to use additional fall protection. If an employee is using a rope ladder (Jacob's ladder) to descend, then additional fall protection is not required, either. Additionally, OSHA notes that if the employee were using a descent control device or ladder to effect self-rescue, that employee may not be able to remain connected to the original fall protection due to a restriction in downward movement.
Question #3: If an employee uses a device designed to allow an employee to ascend (ascender) back to the original working surface (bucket) after a fall, would the employee still be required to remain within some type of lanyard, retractable lifeline, rope grab, or similar device during the self-rescue when over four (4) feet above the ground to ensure they are protected from another unintentional fall?
Answer: As before, an employee performing self-rescue after an arrested fall would not be required to have fall protection in addition to the self-rescue device. Furthermore, once a fall event has occurred and an employee has used an ascender to return to the bucket, it is critical that the employee return to the ground as soon as safely possible because the employee's fall protection equipment is no longer acceptable for use as fall protection. Finally, OSHA notes that, if an employee uses an ascender for self-rescue, then that employee would not be required to disconnect from the original lanyard because the employee would not have his/her upward movement restricted by the presence of the lanyard.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
1 The preamble for 29 CFR 1910.269, found at 59 FR 4347, states that the four-minute time was not intended as an absolute time limit on responding to an accident and did not account for delays in discovering an accident. It also states that the standard would be enforced by determining the time it would take for a CPR-trained individual to get to an injured employee. could be suspended no longer than four (4) minutes after being discovered, as a result of the requirements of 1910.269(b)(1)(ii). [ back to text ]