As noted in a story last month (see Mast Climbers Offer Efficiency, Safety, But Require Supervision, Training ), mast climbing scaffolds are becoming the platform of choice in construction due to their relative ease of operation.

However, because they operate on principles quite different from traditional tube and coupler or suspended scaffolds, the use of mast climbers imposes new responsibilities on companies, their supervisors and their workforces.

Despite these unique principles, federal OSHA has made no effort to define particular responsibilities for mast climber use. Instead, the agency relies on its general duty clause (5(a)(1)) and the more specific regulations it developed for older scaffolds.

California, however, has gone one step further than OSHA. It has incorporated by reference the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) A92.9 Mast-Climbing Work Platform voluntary standard in its General Industry Safety Orders (GISO) Section 3638. As noted by Patrick Bell, Senior Safety Engineer at Cal OSHA, in an email-to-the-editor of LIFELINES ONLINE, “We placed these rules in the GISO because mast climbing work platforms are used in various industrial sectors, and in California the GISO is a truly horizontal standard, i.e., applicable to all industry sectors where subject matter is not specifically regulated.”

The ANSI A92.9 standard was first adopted in 1993 and reaffirmed in 1998. It was incorporated by Cal OSHA in February, 2006. The standard defines the responsibilities of mast climber dealers, owners, users, operators, lessors and lessees. Though voluntary, the standard’s incorporation into California’s regulations means that companies that fail to adhere to the standard could be subject to legal action for damages, if they experience injuries or fatalities in the use of mast climbers. Copies of A92.9 can be ordered from ANSI.

LIFELINES ONLINE checked with a number of other state OSHAs, but did not find any that has incorporated A92.9 by reference, although Oregon officials said that OR/OSHA can use A92.9 as a reference to improve the safety and health of employees on a case by case basis. Also, Washington State officials said the state has recently rewritten its scaffold standard (chapter 296-874 WAC) and requires mast climbers to meet the new requirements (however, no specific mention of mast climbers is made). Kentucky officials, like those in some other states, noted that the state’s regulations incorporate 29 Code of Federal Regulation 1926, Subpart L-Scaffolds – the federal standard – that identifies A92.9 in the non-mandatory appendix of national consensus standards.

The Scaffold Industry Association publishes its own guidance (Form 113 S) for the use of mast climbers – its Code of Safe Practices – in both English and Spanish. In addition, the Laborers-AGC Education and Training Fund has a mast climbing scaffold module in its new scaffold training program and has brokered an arrangement with a major manufacturer so that Laborers’ training funds can purchase mast climbers for hands-on training.

“The essential point,” says the LHSFNA’s Senior Safety and Health Specialist Travis Parsons, “is that this equipment is different than traditional scaffolds. Just because your supervisor or your workers know how to manage traditional scaffolds, that doesn’t mean they understand mast climbers. Workers, supervisors and competent persons need training on the particular issues associated with this technology.”

[Steve Clark]