December 18, 1998

U.S. Department of Labor (S-2315)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Attn: Mr. Charles Jeffress, Assistant Secretary of Secretary of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20210


Assistant Secretary Jeffress:

The purpose of this letter is submit an additional comment from the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) to supplement out 9/22/98 submittal addressing the proposed steel erection standard which was published in the 8/13/98 Federal Register. This supplementary comment addresses the issue of the mandatory use of fall protection equipment for connectors.

The Society has serious concern with this specific portion of the proposed rule:

1926.760 Fall Protection [b]Connectors(3): Be provided, at heights over 15 feet and up to 30 feet above a lower level, with a personal fall arrest or fall restraint (positioning device) system and wear the equipment necessary to be able to be tied off; or be provided with other means of protection from fall hazards in accordance with paragraph [a](2) of this section

We have read the justification for this portion of the proposed rule on page 43480 of the Federal Register and ask that OSHA reconsider the heights for fall protection for connectors. While a fall at fifteen (15) feet may easily cause a fatality, a thirty (30) foot fall on a construction site would almost certainly result in a fatality. We are aware that this was a controversial issue for the Steel Erection Negotiated Rule Making Committee, (SENRAC), however, we urge the Agency to revisit this issue before finalizing the rule. We specifically ask that the following two (2) points be considered:

  • The OSHA Scaffolding Rule specifies ten (10) feet for fall protection equipment. What is the justification for such inconsistency in this rule? Would it not make more sense to stipulate the connector height be set at ten (10) in feet in order to provide for higher levels of safety and maintain some level of consistency. We do recognize the ongoing discussions addressing lanyards and tie-off points. If an individual is of average height and has a harness with a six (6) foot lanyard, it might be difficult to protect he/she in a ten (10) foot fall. If the lanyard is designed to be shock absorbing there might even be more distance needed to be effective. However, recognition of the ten (10) foot threshold would almost certainly prevent some injuries and fatalities. The other issue might be that the threshold for putting up physical fall protection (e.g.: handrails), may not equate to a threshold for effective functioning of personal fall protection systems. Our final point is to ask if OSHA has contacted fall protection equipment manufacturers to learn if there is new equipment being developed which could address this issue.
  • Has NIOSH provided any data or studies to OSHA indicating the difference in rates of injuries and fatalities on construction sites which would result from this portion of the standard? Would it make more sense from the policy perspective to conduct further study on the fall heights before finalizing the rule?
The basic position of the Society is that working at such a height without fall protection is a significant hazard and should not be codified in a rule. ASSE urges OSHA to revisit this portion of the rule, before issuing it in final form.

We thank you for your attention to this matter, and if you should have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact the Society.

Sincerely Yours,

Fred F. Fleming, CSP, OHST
Society President 1998-1999

Copy To:   ASSE Board of Directors
                    ASSE Council on Professional Affairs
                    ASSE Governmental Affairs Committee
                    OSHA Docket File S-775



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