Friday, January 7, 2011

OSHA Fall Protection

Question: Employees at times perform various tasks on construction equipment being used at a construction site, such as checking fluid levels. At times this work is done while the employee is on the vehicle at heights over 6 feet. Do any OSHA construction standards require fall protection for employees who are on construction equipment, such as excavators, dump trucks, and bulldozers at heights in excess of 6 feet?

Answer: The OSHA standards for fall protection in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M do not apply in this situation because Subpart M explicitly excludes vehicles. 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(1) states:
Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.
The phrase "walking/working surface" is defined at 29 CFR 1926.500(b)(2) as:
Any surface, whether horizontal or vertical on which an employee walks or works, including, but not limited to, floors, roofs, ramps, bridges, runways, formwork and concrete reinforcing steel but not including ladders, vehicles, or trailers, on which employees must be located in order to perform their job duties. [Emphasis added].
Therefore, Subpart M does not require fall protection for an employee who is on a vehicle in order to perform his or her job duties because 1926.500(b)(2) expressly excludes vehicles from the definition of "walking/working surface."

Subpart M does not contain a definition of "vehicles." It is not our intention in this letter to comprehensively interpret that term. However, we have concluded that the types of construction equipment mentioned in your correspondence are "vehicles" as that term is used in Subpart M because each one is mobile, motorized, and would have been generally considered as a vehicle at the time of the promulgation of Subpart M.

National Safety Compliance has developed an employee training DVD specific to OSHA fall protection requirements. For more information about this program, please visit this link: OSHA Fall Protection Safety Training

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