Friday, December 30, 2011

Fall protection on aerial lifts during construction activities

August 22, 2011
Directorate of Construction
SUBJECT: Fall protection on aerial lifts during construction activities.

On January 14, 2009, OSHA issued a letter of interpretation regarding the use of a particular shock absorbing lanyard to satisfy the requirements found in §1926.453(b)(2)(v). The Directorate of Construction has received inquires from regional offices, area offices, and the public asking if the January 2009 letter banned the lanyard in question.

OSHA did not ban the particular lanyard but stated, based on the manufacturer's instructions, which stipulated a minimum anchor point height of 18.5 feet, that it was likely that the lanyard's use would not comply with OSHA standards at lower heights.

In such cases, use of the lanyard below 18.5 feet would apparently not provide adequate fall protection. This determination has raised questions about the use of body harnesses, typically married with appropriate lanyards, for fall protection in aerial lifts. To help avoid any confusion on the issue, DOC is rescinding the January 2009 letter, #20070823-7896.

Under subpart L, employers must ensure that employees tie off at all times when working from an aerial lift [§1926.453(b)(2)(v)]. Employers must ensure that employees using personal fall arrest systems while working on aerial lifts at heights six feet or more above a lower level comply with §1926.502(d) of subpart M, specifically:

Personal fall arrest systems, when stopping a fall, shall:
(iii) be rigged such that an employee can neither free fall more than 6 feet (1.8 m), nor contact any lower level. [§1926.502(d)(16)(iii)]

However, §1926.502(d) does not require employers to comply with manufacturer's instructions when using personal fall arrest systems. To cite §1926.502(d)(16)(iii), the facts must show that the personal fall arrest system would permit a free fall of more than six feet or would permit contact with a lower level - and not base this conclusion solely on information provided by the manufacturer.

As has been the Agency's longstanding policy, an employer may comply with OSHA's fall protection requirements for aerial lifts in one of three ways:

  1. Use of a body belt with a tether anchored to the boom or basket (fall restraint system),
  2. Use of a body harness with a tether (fall restraint system), or
  3. Use of a body harness with a lanyard (fall arrest system).

National Safety Compliance has produced an excellent Aerial & Scissor Lift Safety Training Video Program to ensure your compliance with OSHA's regulations. In conjunction with this Aerial & Scissor Lift Safety Program, NSC has also produced a Fall Protection Safety Training Video Program.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Employers get help from OSHA's free On-site Consultation Program: Worker safety and health improves

With a small business where workers risk both falls and dangerous chemical exposures, the owners of Tri-State Building Services LLC decided to call OSHA for help. The results, Tri-State improved their safety and health management programs through working with the New York State Department of Labor's (NYDOL) On-site Consultation Program. "It seemed like a no-brainer. Why not take advantage of the nation's top authority on safety?" said Dave and Jim Grady, co-owners of the upstate New York cleaning and property maintenance company.

Tri State contacted OSHA's free On-site Consultation Program, which provides small business workplaces with assistance in identifying and correcting workplace safety and health hazards, as well as guidance on improving their injury and illness prevention program. Thanks to OSHA's visit, Tri-State has made significant safety and health improvements, including purchasing and installing eye wash stations, properly labeling equipment and chemicals, and enhancing the company's safety manuals. The company has also increased efforts to communicate safety and health information to Spanish speaking workers and to provide training to all workers on topics including scaffolding, aerial lifts, window cleaning, and general construction. The results can be seen in their injury rates which are significantly lower than the industry averages.

"To maintain a safety and health environment, Tri-State has learned to train, re-train, and reinforce. The company examines their safety and health management program constantly by re-evaluating and modifying their overall existing program, searching for improvement," said Grady. "The On-site Consultation visits have helped the organization to enforce its safety and health expectations by encouraging Tri-State's employees to be safety conscious throughout the entire organization." See the online success story for more information.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Employer options after an OSHA Citation has been given.

As an employer who has been cited, you may take either of the following courses of action:
  • If you agree to the Citation and Notification of Penalty, you must correct the condition by the date set in the citation and pay the penalty, if one is proposed.
  • If you do not agree, you have 15 working days from the date you receive the citation to contest in writing any or all of the following:
    • Citation;
    • Proposed penalty; and/or
    • Abatement date.
Before deciding to contest the citation, you may request an informal conference with the OSHA area director within the 15 working day period to discuss any issues related to the Citation and Notification of Penalty. (See the following section on Informal Conference and Settlement).

OSHA will inform the affected employee representatives of the informal conference or contest.

Before Deciding to Contest

Before deciding whether to file a Notice of Intent to Contest, you may request an informal conference with the OSHA area director to discuss the Citation and Notification of Penalty. You may use this opportunity to do any of the following:
  • Obtain a better explanation of the violations cited;
  • Obtain a more complete understanding of the specific standards that apply;
  • Negotiate and enter into an informal settlement agreement;
  • Discuss ways to correct violations;
  • Discuss issues concerning proposed penalties;
  • Discuss proposed abatement dates;
  • Resolve disputed citations and penalties, (thereby eliminating the need for themore formal procedures associated with litigation before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission); and
  • Obtain answers to any other questions you may have.