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News Release USDL 97-431
Wednesday, November 26, 1997
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151
Worker Protection Improved by Requirement
OSHA REMINDS CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY THAT BODY BELTS WILL BE PROHIBITED IN PERSONAL FALL ARREST SYSTEMS
As of Jan. 1, 1998, body belts will no longer be acceptable as part of a personal fall arrest system for construction workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminded employers and employees today.
Also, effective the same date, locking snap hooks must be used in personal fall arrest systems. Both requirements are part of the final rule on safety standards for fall protection in the construction industry that was issued Aug. 9, 1994.
"OSHA has taken these steps to increase the level of protection for construction employees against injuries from falls, one of the major hazards in the industry," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress. In general, the rule requires construction employers to provide fall protection whenever their employees are exposed to a fall of six feet or more.
Implementation of the prohibition against body belts and non-locking snap hooks had been delayed to reduce the economic impact. Now, however, belts and non-locking snap hooks that were being used when the rule was issued will have been worn out and can be replaced by more protective personal fall arrest equipment.
In announcing the final rule on fall protection, OSHA had noted that employees who fall while wearing a body belt do not receive the same level of protection they would if wearing a full body harness. Studies indicate that persons suspended in body belts receive internal injuries and cannot tolerate suspension long enough to allow for retrieval. Further, locking snap hooks also provide the most adequate protection against "rollout," where snap hooks become accidentally disengaged.
OSHA POLICIES ON USE OF BODY BELTS
OSHA also has taken these positions on the use of body belts in certain situations:
With respect to the use of body belts in aerial lifts, the policy is that if the system is rigged as part of a positioning device body belt system that limits free fall to two feet, belts may be used.
With respect to the use of body belts covered under OSHA's general industry standard for electric power generation, transmission and distribution, which adopts the construction standard on this point, the policy is the same; that is, if there is no free fall potential in excess of two feet (0.61 meters), the workers may continue to use body belts.
With respect to the use of body belts during steel erections, all steel erection activities are excluded from subpart M (the construction fall protection standard).
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