In a recently issued letter of interpretation, OSHA has confirmed its policy that employees working in an aerial lift over water may unhook their lanyard from the boom or basket of the lift.  The letter was in response to an employee inquiry regarding a company policy of allowing employees to unhook their lanyards when performing operations over water.  The employee asked whether this practice was allowable under OSHA’s construction standards (29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)(v)).

In response to the questioner, OSHA reiterates that while no such allowance was provided in the actual text of the standard, OSHA’s existing cranes and derricks in construction rule — along with the new cranes and derricks in construction proposal — permits the practice.  As a result, OSHA concludes that it would be a de minimis violation of 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)(v) for employees to unhook their lanyards when performing work over water.  This, of course, makes sense as there is the possibility of a greater hazard to employees in the event of an aerial lift collapse over water if they are tied to the boom or basket.

Employers are encouraged to take note of this interpretation when developing their fall protection programs.