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Regulations (Preambles to Final Rules) - Table of Contents
• Record Type: Safety Standards for Stairways and Ladders Used in the Construction Industry
• Section: 1
• Title: Section 1 - I. Background

I. Background

Congress amended the Contract Work Hours Standards Act (40 U.S.C. 327 et seq.) in 1969 by adding a new section 107 (40 U.S.C. 333) to provide employees in the construction industry with a safer work environment and to reduce the frequency and severity of construction accidents and injuries. The amendment, commonly known as the Construction Safety Act (CSA) significantly strengthened employee protection by authorizing the promulgation of construction safety and health standards for employees of the building trades and construction industry working on federal and federally financed or federally assisted construction projects. Accordingly, the Secretary of Labor issued Safety and Health Regulations for Construction in 29 CFR part 1518 (36 FR 7340, April 17, 1971).

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (the Act) (29 U.S.C. 651 et seq.), was enacted by Congress in 1970 and authorized the Secretary of Labor to adopt established federal standards issued under other statutes, including the CSA, as occupational safety and health standards. Accordingly, the Secretary of Labor adopted the Construction Standards, which had been issued under the CSA, as OSHA standards (36 FR 10466, May 29, 1971). The Safety and Health Regulations for Construction were subsequently redesignated as part 1926 (36 FR 25232, December 30, 1971). The standards addressing ladders (§ 1926.450 in Subpart L) and stairways (§ 1926.501 in Subpart M) were adopted as OSHA standards as part of this process.

Section 6(a) of the Act authorized OSHA to adopt national consensus standards without rulemaking for the first two years after the Act took effect. This enabled the Agency to implement safety and health regulations much faster than would have been possible if OSHA had been required to conduct rulemaking. Many provisions of the existing standards for stairways and ladders were adopted from consensus standards during that period.

The organizations which produce consensus standards expect that compliance will be voluntary, based on agreement among interested parties regarding the need for particular precautions. It is implicit that the primary concern of the standard producing organizations is to improve the overall safety of a workplace by fostering compliance with the spirit, rather than the letter, of the consensus standards. On the other hand, OSHA standards, including those adopted from consensus standards, impose mandatory burdens, because of the Agency's statutory duty to require protection of employee safety and health. As noted elsewhere in this preamble, OSHA has carefully reviewed the ongoing efforts of nationally recognized standards-producing organizations to update pertinent consensus standards that were initially adopted for stairways and ladders under subparts L and M.

In the course of reviewing information, such as the provisions of revised consensus standards, obtained by the Agency, OSHA became aware of the need to revise subparts L and M, including the provisions for ladders and stairways. In 1977, OSHA determined, after several meetings with the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) to review the provisions of subparts L and M, that a piecemeal approach to the revision of those provisions would not be acceptable. Therefore, a complete review of subparts L and M was begun. Since that time, ACCSH has reviewed these subparts several times and transcripts of these meetings, including recommendations, have been submitted to the Assistant Secretary. The transcripts are part of the public record (Ex. 1). The Committee's recommendations, and those of other interested parties, have been carefully analyzed in connection with the present rulemaking. Many of the changes in the final standard reflect the recommendations and suggestions of the Advisory Committee and interested persons. Relevant ACCSH comments are discussed below in the Summary and Explanation section. Committee discussions that were inconclusive or did not result in a specific recommendation have also been considered, but are not discussed in depth in this preamble.

On November 25, 1986, OSHA proposed to revise the provisions of subparts L and M of the Construction Industry Standards that regulate ladders and stairways, respectively, and to relocate the revised provisions to subpart X (51 FR 42750). Concurrently, the Agency proposed to revise the standards in subparts L and M that cover scaffolds (51 FR 42680) and fall protection (51 FR 42718), respectively, in construction employment. The proposal established a period, ending February 23, 1987, during which interested parties could submit written comments or request a hearing regarding the proposals.

The period for submitting written comments and hearing requests was extended twice at the request of commenters. On February 26, 1987, OSHA extended that period until June 1, 1987 (52 FR 5790). Then, on June 2, 1987, the Agency announced the extension of the period until August 14, 1987 (52 FR 20616). OSHA received 45 comments in response to proposed subpart X.

After reviewing and evaluating the provisions for ladders and stairways, OSHA believes that certain provisions in the existing standards either are redundant or ambiguous or are not clearly applied to all situations. Some provisions simply are not feasible in all situations, while others are unnecessarily detailed. To eliminate these problems, this rulemaking has focused on the principal hazards involved when working on stairways and ladders and eliminates provisions that OSHA believes are unnecessary. To the extent possible, the final rule has been written in performance oriented language, so employers have the flexibility to implement compliance strategies that both protect employees from occupational hazards and minimize disruption of operations.

To make it easier for employers and employees to find specific provisions, this final rule relocates the topics of stairways and ladders from subparts L and M to a revised subpart X titled "Stairways and Ladders." The existing subpart X in part 1926, "Effective Dates," is no longer needed as those effective dates have passed. Therefore, existing subpart X is being deleted and replaced with this new subpart X.

On January 26, 1988, OSHA announced it would convene an informal public hearing beginning on March 22, 1988, to elicit additional input on specific issues related to stairways and ladders, scaffolds, and fall protection. The hearings were conducted on March 22 and 23, 1988, with Administrative Law Judge Joel Williams presiding. At the close of the hearings, Judge Williams set a period, ending May 9, 1988, for the submission of additional comments and information. On August 11, 1989, Judge Williams certified the rulemaking record, including the hearing transcript and all written submissions to the docket, thereby closing the record for this proceeding. OSHA received 45 comments on this subpart in response to its NPRM and 18 comments in response to the hearing notice. A wide range of employees, businesses, trade associations, state governments, and other interested parties contributed to the development of this record. The Agency appreciates these efforts to help develop a rulemaking record that provides a sound basis for the promulgation of the final rule.

Based on its review of the record, OSHA has determined that the revision and reorganization of the regulations for stairways and ladders are necessary to address the significant hazards, such as fall hazards, faced by employees who use stairways and ladders while performing construction work. The Agency has determined that compliance with the provisions of this standard will best ensure the safety of employees using stairways and ladders.

OSHA believes that the clarified and reformatted language of the final rule will help employers to understand the requirements for stairways and ladders, and will improve safety by minimizing subjective interpretations of the provisions.

Regulations (Preambles to Final Rules) - Table of Contents

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