With the new OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 rules have come many questions, and one that Incident Prevention often receives is how to define an appropriate anchorage. There will be forthcoming interpretations as employers ask questions of OSHA, but the April 4, 2014 preamble, or “Summary and Explanation of the Final Rule,” does provide a good basis for interpreting the rules. You can read the preamble at www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/.
Concerning anchorages, most everyone can quote the two most familiar longstanding requirements: a minimum tensile load of 3,000 pounds for lifelines or lanyards that limit free-fall distance to 2 feet or fewer (see 1926.502(d)(12)), and a minimum tensile load of 5,000 pounds for fall protection systems that do not limit free-fall distance to 2 feet or fewer (see 1926.502(d)(13)). Alternative or “made” anchorages, as well as anchorages for travel-limiting or fall prevention systems, are more difficult to understand. Anchorages on poles or other power structures also present issues. Most of the questions iP receives are addressed in one way or another in the final rule’s preamble.
A Frequent Question
First, let’s address a frequent question regarding 1926.502(d)(15). This paragraph states, “Anchorages used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment shall be independent of any anchorage being used to support or suspend platforms and capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN) per employee attached …” The question regards fall protection for workers on temporary ladders suspended from towers. The scenario is where employers use a retractable attached at the arm or a harness with a chest-connected rope-grab clipped to a rope rigged the length of the ladder. The issue is the rule’s requirement that the anchorage be independent of ladder support and rated at 5,000 pounds per employee attached. Here we address a principle for fall protection mentioned throughout the preamble and other interpretations about fall protection. The rule only applies to fall arrest. With proper planning, rigging and use, the retractable and/or rope-grab system prevents the fall or at least keeps it close to a foot. With the fall prevented, the system should not be subject to the 5,000-pound fall arrest requirement and would be permitted to be attached to the arm, the same location as the ladder support. What is not permitted are the long-used ropes tied parallel to the ladder rails through which lineworkers would run their positioning straps. If the worker were to fall, the ropes would catch them at the end of the ladder. This method has been popular for years, but it has two issues: If used with a body belt, the fall is arrested at the waist, and the fall is not arrested within 6 feet.
This brings us to anchorages on bucket trucks. In a February 18, 1999 letter to Steven Claypool, OSHA addressed anchorages in buckets this way: “When using a personal fall arrest system, that system must not be anchored to an aerial lift unless the aerial lift is capable of withstanding the loads imposed by an arrested fall” (see www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=23345).
As recently as a September 2014 letter to Lauren Goodman, OSHA again noted that “[s]ome aerial lifts may lack the capacity to withstand the vertical and lateral loads caused by an arrested fall. Therefore, the length of free fall permitted by the self-retracting lanyard must be such that the aerial lift is capable of maintaining a safety factor of at least two when it arrests a fall.”
In both of these instances, OSHA suggested shortening the potential fall to limit stress on the anchorage. It is my experience that most aerial device manufacturers are prepared to give advice on fall protection attachments to their devices, but few routinely provide information about attachments in their operator guides. The bottom line is that even with manufacturer-provided attachments, the employer must know the limitations and train users about the appropriate use and connections that should be employed.
Anchorages for Restraint Systems
Fall restraint protection systems are those that prevent a fall so that there is no fall to arrest. Restraint systems have been permitted but seldom considered or used in the utility industry. Some of the past resistance to using restraint systems is because utilities did not think that they were allowed simply because they were not addressed in the 1910.269 or 1926 Subpart V standards. OSHA did address this in the April 2014 preamble, specifically in the discussion of fall protection on transformer tops, explaining that restraint systems were not addressed because OSHA heard no discussion about them nor did they recognize a need for a fall restraint system. That, of course, was not the case as we do need restraint systems to accommodate fall prevention on working surfaces, such as substation equipment and roofs of buildings to work services.
On page 20398 of the preamble, OSHA discusses the use of and requirements for a fall restraint system, including anchorages. As OSHA points out, the final rule does not specify strength requirements for fall restraint systems; however, the system must be strong enough to restrain the worker from exposure to the fall hazard. The note to 1926.453(b)(2)(v) states that a body belt or body harness may be used as part of a restraint system. However, the system must be rigged to prevent the employee from falling. That tells us how strong an anchorage must be. Just like a fall protection device is not a fall arrest system if it allows a worker to fall more than 6 feet or to strike a lower surface, a restraint anchorage that might fail under the stress likely imposed would not meet the requirement of an anchorage even though there is no stipulated strength requirement.
Page 20384 of the preamble refers to a November 2, 1995 letter to Mike Amen in which OSHA recommended strength criteria for a fall restraint anchorage (see www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=21999). The interpretation acknowledged that OSHA has no specific standards for restraint system anchorages but suggested as guidance that, at a minimum, the anchorage have the capacity to withstand at least twice the maximum expected force that is needed to restrain the person from exposure to the fall hazard. In determining what this force could be, consideration should be given to factors such as the force generated by a person walking, leaning or sliding down the working surface.
Anchorages for Poles and Structures
Anticipating that 100 percent fall protection would be the rule in the new standard, manufacturers have been developing equipment to meet what they expected to be the criteria. As discussed earlier, work-positioning equipment can be used for fall protection provided it can be rigged so no fall occurs greater than 2 feet against an anchorage of at least 3,000 pounds. OSHA applied some laudable logic on page 20403 of the preamble, stating that it is feasible to use portable anchorage devices (PAD) as work-positioning anchorages. In other words, those PADs – such as Buckingham Manufacturing Co.’s BuckSqueeze and Jelco’s Pole Choker – used to protect a climber from a fall do meet the criteria as anchorages under the rules as long as they meet ASTM F887-12e1 and are used in accordance with manufacturers' instructions.
The manufacturers' instructions bring us to another criterion for anchorages: training. There are a variety of ways to use the market-provided devices, and not all of them are going to put the employer in compliance or protect the employee from injury in a fall. For instance, an experienced climber who climbs with a skid may allow their pole strap to drop low on the pole. In other words, they will climb past the skid and then throw it up chest-high on the next step. Without training on the proper position of a PAD while climbing, they may bring that technique to their fall protection device. In doing so, the PAD anchorage will be below the waist, just like they use to climb with the pole strap. Now, if the climber falls, the fall distance will exceed 2 feet, creating a minimum of three violations. If the climber falls more than the limit of 2 feet, they may apply greater arrest forces to the anchorage than what it is designed for. They may also create arresting forces at the hips and waist greater than that allowed. The climber may not fall from the pole, but the forces generated in the arrest may seriously injure them.
Towers are the last anchorage-related concern. Like other devices available, buy-and-issue is not enough. The fall protection planner must be aware of the issues and have a plan to accommodate them. The biggest concern is how to create an anchorage on structural steel. The first place to start is how to limit the fall arrest forces. If you develop a system such as a vertical rope with grab, you can limit the requirements to a fall restraint and simplify the anchorage strength issue. Still, whatever you choose, it will take some planning. You should also be aware that it is OSHA's position that not being able to classify structural members as able to withstand 3,000 pounds is not a grounds for infeasibility or an excuse for not having a fall protection system in place. In fact, OSHA has pointed out that, as a solution to a long reach or walking an arm where using a safety under the arm is now prohibited, the employer could install a platform and the worker could instead walk out on and attach to the platform (see page 20403 of the preamble).
There are many solutions, and an appropriate solution for one scenario may not be appropriate for another. We can't answer every question here and we can't always discuss every aspect of every issue. As with all of the information in these pages, iP seeks to give you the best information possible to help you and our industry excel in safety and to protect employees and their employers. We translate and organize information and attempt to present it in a cohesive manner. These sources of information are available to you, too, so I often take a little time to tell you how we find the information that we put in these pages.
I regularly choose the preamble as the first place to look for the interpretation of rules. The preamble is the transcription of hearings on proposed rules. The hearings consist of stakeholder recommendations or critiques of proposed rules as well as OSHA’s response. Those discussions often explain the intent of a rule and how OSHA determines the final rules that become law. Not all rules have preamble discussions, but looking for a preamble is still a good place to start.
The next place we look to are the CPLs and interpretations. CPLs are instructions to compliance officers about how to administer the rules covered in the CPL. If you want to know how OSHA will interpret a rule, the CPL will tell you. Again, like preambles, not all rules are covered by a CPL, and the same is true for interpretations. Though OSHA may from time to time issue a directive or a directive in the form of an interpretation, unless an employer has asked a question regarding a particular rule, the rule you are looking for may not have interpretations. By the way, if you use the Internet to read the standards on www.osha.gov, you may have noticed that some of the rules have highlighted numbers. Those are hyperlinks to related interpretations or other information related to that particular rule.
Written interpretations explain OSHA's response to specific questions and have the weight of a statutory rule. An interpretation describes an OSHA-accepted means of compliance with the rule in discussion. There may be other means of compliance in addition to what is found in an interpretation, and those are acceptable as long as they meet the intent of the rule. An employer is not likely to be cited for violating an interpretation, but the interpretation clearly explains how OSHA will react to that specific rule.
The next sources are consensus standards and manufacturers' directions. Like the preamble, consensus standards – unless adopted by OSHA – and manufacturers' directions are not rules and employers cannot be cited for violating these guides. However, the text of the preamble as well as non-adopted consensus standards and manufacturers' directions may be used as the basis of a citation under the General Duty Clause.
Consensus standards are very useful for employers in varying ways. As mentioned, some consensus standards are adopted. In 1910.6(a)(1), OSHA explains that for adopted consensus standards, only those portions of the standards that use the word “shall” have the same force and effect of the OSHA standards. In Appendix G to 1910.269, you will find consensus standards that OSHA has classified as reference documents. This class of consensus standards are those listed as useful to assist the employer in complying with the OSHA standards. These are not rules, and not following one of these reference documents is not a citable offense. In the first paragraph to the appendix, OSHA explains that except as specifically noted in 1910.269, “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will not necessarily deem compliance with the national consensus standards to be compliance with the provisions of § 1910.269.”
Like reference documents, a manufacturer can be a source of information, but you must recognize that OSHA does not hold manufacturers responsible for their recommendations or even for their products. At times OSHA does find an employer at fault for not using a tool or equipment as designed, but following the rules in manufacturers' instructions still does not ensure compliance with the standards. Take, for example, the fall protection anchorage in a bucket. Some manufacturers place the fall protection attachment in the well with the control handle. The snap and lanyard obstruct the controls. If one man goes out of the basket and his taut lanyard is obstructing the controls, how does the second worker move the bucket? In another example, OSHA's previously mentioned February 18, 1999 letter to Steven Claypool recognizes that a manufacturer's boom and attachment may not meet the 5,000-pound anchorage requirement and would require the employer to use a fall restraint or retractable to meet the requirements. As far as bucket trucks are concerned, we know that some manufacturers provide lanyards and harnesses with their units, but we are not aware of any manufacturer-provided operator instructions that define anchorage ratings or detail as to what type of fall protection device is appropriate for their aerial lifts. The bottom line is that to be compliant in protecting employees and employers, safety professionals must do research, not just hand out equipment and wish the workforce and employer well.
Safety in any industry takes effort on the part of those entrusted with the program. iP's readers, advisory boards and volunteer consultants help us to be a reliable resource for information. If you have questions or issues with what you read here, feel free to tell us about it. We want to hear from you.