April 20, 2012
Andrew Wilson, P.E.
PO Box 398
Oaks, Pennsylvania, 19456
Dear Mr. Wilson:
Thank you for your February 1, 2012, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Because it involves construction issues, it has been forwarded to the Directorate of Construction for response. You have specific questions regarding the use of safety monitors as a method of fall protection on a low-slope roof. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of only the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated in your original correspondence.
Question 1: Under 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(10), do you have to prove that guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems are infeasible before using a safety monitor on a roof 50 feet or less in width? If so, does "infeasible" mean impossible or unreasonable due to financial or time restraints?
Response 1: 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(10) provides multiple options for fall protection on low-slope roofs. 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 may be used on low-slope roofs. In addition, on roofs 50 feet or less in width, employers may use only a safety monitoring system. Employers do not have to prove that any options are infeasible in order to use other options.
Question 2: Are there additional, specific requirements for the use of a safety monitor not found in Subpart M of 29 CFR 1926? Is there a minimum offset distance from a leading or unprotected edge that an employee can work from while being monitored by a safety monitor?
Response 2: All requirements for the use of a safety monitor are found in 29 CFR 1926.502(h). These requirements do not include a minimum offset distance from a leading or unprotected edge from which an employee can work while being monitored by a safety monitor. The requirements do, however, provide detailed information about what is required when employers use a safety monitor, including the requirement that the safety monitor shall not have other responsibilities which could take the monitor's attention away from monitoring.
Question 3: Is it permissible to use a safety monitor on a low-slope roof and to place the employee doing a repair and the safety monitor on the roof using an aerial lift?
Response 3: 29 CFR 1926.500 defines low-slope roof as "a roof having a slope less than or equal to 4 in 12 (vertical to horizontal)." 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(10) allows the use of a safety monitor on a low-slope roof.
Aerial lifts may be used to transport personnel so long as the requirements in 29 CFR 1926.453, which cover aerial lifts, are met. Section 1926.453(b)(2)(v) requires that employees working from aerial lifts be tied-off. On the other hand, when employees move from the basket to the elevated surface, the requirements in 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart M apply. In particular, §1926.501(b)(1) requires fall protection at 6 feet above a lower level. A worker may enter or exit an aerial lift (at heights above 6 feet) provided that fall protection such as guardrails or a fall arrest system is used while the worker moves between the lift and the working surface. A fall arrest system and its components must meet the criteria in §1926.502(d). During entry to and egress from the lift, a worker may tie-off to the lift (if the lift is designed to withstand the vertical and lateral loads imposed by the employee's movement itself or by an arrested fall) or to an appropriate nearby structure.
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 Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020.
James G. Maddux, Director
Directorate of Construction