Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Boatswain Chair Usage With Safety Tieback Anchors; Angles for Lifelines

Standard Interpretations 04/19/2006 - Safe tieback angles for controlled boatswain's chairs. Click title for more ...

• Standard Number: 1910.28; 1910.28(j); 1910.30; 1910.30(g)(2)

April 19, 2006
Mr. Gus Strats
5406 Duke Court
Frederick, MD 21703

Dear Mr. Strats:

Thank you for your November 3, 2005, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. You had specific questions regarding tiebacks for suspended access work. Your question has been restated for clarity.

Question: 29 CFR 1910.28(j) requires tiebacks to be perpendicular to the face of the building. Would a tieback angle of 25 degrees from perpendicular be permissible for controlled boatswain's chairs used in window cleaning?

Response: We understand that you would like us to address your question with respect to federal Occupational Safety and Health requirements. It should be noted, however, that the State of Maryland operates its own occupational safety and health program under a plan approved by the U.S. Department of Labor and may have requirements different from or in addition to those of federal OSHA. For this reason, it is important to keep abreast of current changes in the State's plan for Maryland employers.

Feel free to contact:
Jack English, Acting Assistant Commissioner
Maryland Occupational Safety and Health
1100 N. Eutaw Street, Room 611
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 767-2215

The federal §1910.28 standard for scaffolding applies to suspended work with boatswain's chairs. If the work in question is performed by boatswain's chairs as used in this standard, then the tiebacks must be 90 degrees to the face of the building as specified in §1910.28(j). However, the April 10, 1990, proposed revisions to the Walking and Working Surfaces standards (55 Federal Register (FR) 13360) would allow tiebacks on boatswain's chairs to be "approximately" perpendicular to the structure face, as stated in the proposed paragraph §1910.30(g)(2) (55 FR 13406). Where an employer is in compliance with the provisions of a proposed standard, it is OSHA's general policy to treat the violation of an existing requirement as a de minimis violation. A de minimis violation does not result in a citation, or penalty and need not be abated.

OSHA is unable to determine a specific angle that would be unsafe, because a safe tieback angle would depend on several factors, such as the distance from the parapet or roof edge to the anchor point. In determining whether a tieback was attached at a safe angle, OSHA would use appropriate outside references and the information gathered at the site. If the work practices in question would be equally safe as the requirements of the standard, individual employers could apply to OSHA for a variance from 29 CFR 1910.28 to permit the use of tiebacks at a 25-degree angle.

Pursuant to the OSH Act, OSHA has the authority to issue an order, relieving an individual employer from its obligation to comply with a particular standard, if the employer demonstrates that "the conditions, practices, means, methods, operations, or processes used or proposed to be used by an employer will provide employment and places of employment which are as safe and healthful as those which would prevail if he complied with the standard." 29 USC §655(d). If an employer was acting in accordance with a variance that OSHA issued, the Agency would not issue a citation.

In order to obtain additional information on the variance process, you may direct your inquiry to:

U.S. Department of Labor/OSHA
Office of Technical Programs and Coordination Activities
Ms. Ruth McCully, Director
Room N3655200
Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20210
(202) 693-2110

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.

Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs