Responding to a formal question submitted August 12, 2008, by the New Jersey Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund (NJLHSF), the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of NJ and the Associated General Contractors of NJ, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that temporary catch platforms must comply with OSHA’s scaffold standard, Subpart L.

Temporary catch platforms are commonly erected beneath overpasses or bridges that are under construction or in repair, but sometimes their only purpose is to catch any workers or materials that may fall from the bridge. According to NJLHSF Assistant Director Ken Hoffner, although the original letter sought clarification on their use as work platforms, OSHA went a step further to also address those situations where they are erected only as safety devices. 

Responding on behalf of OSHA, Noah Connell, Acting Director of the Directorate of Construction, wrote, “Yes. The temporary catch platforms you describe are covered by 1926 CFR Subpart L.” 

Noting that  Section 1926.450(b) defines a scaffold as, “[A]ny temporary elevated platform (supported or suspended) and its supporting structure (including points of anchorage), used for supporting employees or materials or both,” Connell wrote, “In this instance, if an employee or material were to fall onto the temporary catch platform, it would at that point support ‘employees or materials or both.’ Consequently, it meets the definition of a scaffold.”

He went on to state that the structures must meet the 4:1 strength requirements in 1926.451(a)(1) and noted that, “in calculating the loads for this purpose, you must include the impact forces due to the fall of an employee or material.”

Connell’s full response is posted on the OSHA website. For more information about this determination and its implications, contact Hoffner, the Assistant Director of the NJLHSF, at 609-860-9223 or call the LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division at 202-628-5465.

[Steve Clark]