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OSHA Construction eTool: Glossary

By U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Safety & Health Administration,
Constitution Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20210, U.S.A.


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American National Standards Institute.

Sanctioned, endorsed, accredited, certified, or accepted as satisfactory by a duly constituted and nationally recognized authority or agency.

Authorized person
A person approved or assigned by the employer to perform a specific type of duty or duties or to be at a specific location or locations at the jobsite. See Designated person.

Equipment is "certified" if it (a) has been tested and found by a nationally recognized testing laboratory to meet nationally recognized standards or to be safe for use in a specified manner; or (b) is of a kind whose production is periodically inspected by a nationally recognized testing laboratory; and (c) it bears a label, tag, or other record of certification.

Competent person
One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.

Construction work
Work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating.

Any characteristic or condition which tends to weaken or reduce the strength of the tool, object, or structure of which it is a part.

Designated person
See Authorized person.

Every laborer or mechanic, regardless of the contractual relationship which may be alleged to exist between the laborer and mechanic and the contractor or subcontractor who engaged him. "Laborer" generally means one who performs manual labor or who labors at an occupation requiring physical strength; "mechanic" generally means a worker skilled with tools.

Contractor or subcontractor.

Alternative designs, materials, or methods to protect against a hazard which the employer can demonstrate will provide an equal or greater degree of safety for employees than the methods, materials or designs specified in the standard.

Hazardous substance
A substance which, by reason of being explosive, flammable, poisonous, corrosive, oxidizing, irritating, or otherwise harmful, is likely to cause death or injury.

Qualified Person
One who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated his ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.

Safety factor
The ratio of the ultimate breaking strength of a member or piece of material or equipment to the actual working stress or safe load when in use.

Society of Automotive Engineers.



That which fits and has the qualities or qualifications to meet a given purpose, occasion, condition, function, or circumstance.


The unit by which the flow of current through a conductor is measured.

A discharge of electricity through a gas, such as air.

Attachment Cap
See Plug.

The path along which electric current flows from start to finish is called a circuit. The circuit includes the generator or battery which starts the current, the wires, and any electrical device that the current operates. If any part of the circuit is removed, the current cannot flow. The circuit is then broken or open. Because electric current seeks to complete its circuit, it will travel along any path that is presented (path of least resistance), which is why humans are at risk of electrocution when they handle damaged tools or cords, or contact un-insulated wires. In effect, they become part of the circuit.

Circuit breaker
A protective device which automatically opens, or trips, a circuit, without damage to itself, when the current exceeds a predetermined level.

A substance or body that allows a current of electricity to pass continuously along it. Metals, such as copper or aluminum, are good conductors. In a circuit, current-carrying wires are termed "conductors", as in a flexible cord.

The flow of electrons through a conductor, measured in amperes (amps). If the current flows back and forth through a conductor, it is called alternating current (AC). If the current flows in one direction only, as in a car battery, it is called direct current (DC). AC is most widely used because it is possible to increase ("step up") or decrease ("step down") the current through a transformer. For example, when current from an overhead power line is run through a pole-mounted transformer, it can be stepped down to normal household current. Also, alternating current can travel enormous distances with little loss of voltage, or power.

When alternating current flows back and forth through a conductor, it is said to cycle. In each cycle, the electrons flow first in one direction, then the other. In the United States, the normal rate for power transmission is 60 cycles per second, or 60 Hertz (Hz).

To free from any electric connection and/or electric charge.

The flow of an atom's electrons through a conductor.

A conductor used to establish electrical contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit.

To direct electric current through a conductor. Power lines and wires can be intentionally energized (or de-energized) to carry current to an electrical device. But conductive sur which are unintentionally energized, like the metal case of a tool, the metal housing of a circuit box, or a metal object such as an aluminum ladder, present a danger of electrocution.

An insulation failure that exposes electrified conductors, causing current to leak and possibly resulting in electric shock.

A protective device which allows a piece of metal to become part of a circuit. The metal melts under heat created by excessive current, thereby interrupting the circuit and preventing the flow of electricity from exceeding the circuit's current-carrying capacity.

GFCI (Ground-fault circuit interrupter)
A device that detects an insulation failure by comparing the amount of current flowing to electrical equipment with the amount of current returning from the equipment. Whenever the difference is greater than 5 milliamps, the GFCI trips and thereby interrupts the flow of electricity.

A conducting connection, intentional or unintentional, between an electrical circuit or equipment and the earth, or to some conducting body that serves in place of the earth.

A fault, or insulation failure, in the wire used to create a path to ground.

To prevent the buildup of hazardous voltages in a circuit by creating a low-resistance path to earth or some other ground plane.

Placement of live parts of electrical equipment where they cannot accidentally be contacted, such as in a vault, behind a shield, or on a raised platform, to which only qualified persons have access.

Opposition to the flow of alternating (AC) electric current. See Resistance.

Non-conductive materials used to cover or surround a conductor, permitting it to be handled without danger of electric shock.

Any material, such as glass or rubber, that prevents the flow of electric current.

One thousand watts.

To lock a switch in the "off" position by means of a padlock, or to lock electrified equipment behind a locked door, to which only qualified persons have the key.

Low resistance to A/C current.

A unit of measurement equaling one thousandth (1/1000) of an ampere.

The unit by which resistance to electrical current is measured. From Ohm's Law (Current=Voltage/Resistance, or in other words, Current=Voltage/Ohms), a mathematical expression of the relationship between these three elements.

Any current in excess of the rated capacity of equipment or of a conductor.

In AC power systems, load current is drawn from a voltage source which typically takes the form of a sine wave. Ideally, the current drawn by the loads in the system is also a sine wave. With a simple, resistive load such as a light bulb, the current sine wave is always aligned with the voltage sine wave. This is called single-phase. A single-phase power system normally uses three wires, called hot, neutral, and ground, and the voltage is typically 120/240. Most home and office outlets operate in this manner. With some loads, such as motors, and in high voltage systems, the current sine wave is purposely delayed and lags behind the voltage sine wave. The amount of this lag is expressed in degrees and is called a phase difference. A common example is three-phase power, where the system has three "hot" wires, each 120 degrees out of phase with each other.

A device to which the conductors of a cord are attached, which is used to connect to the conductors permanently attached to a receptacle.

The relationship between poles of positive and negative charge, particularly with regard to wiring of conductors where the ungrounded (hot) conductor and grounded (neutral) conductor form a circuit.

Qualified Person
One familiar with the construction and operation of the equipment and the hazards involved.

A channel designed expressly for holding wires, cables, or busbars, including conduit, tubing, wireways, busways, gutters, or moldings.

The stated operating limit of a piece of equipment, expressed in a unit of measure such as volts or watts.

A device, such as a jack or an outlet, to which conductors are attached, and where a plug makes contact with a source of electric current.

Anything that impedes the flow of electricity, particularly in direct (DC) current. Resistance is measured in ohms.

To identify electric equipment by class, group, and the temperature range for which it is approved.

The unit by which electrical force or pressure is measured.

The fundamental force or pressure that causes electricity to flow through a conductor. Measured in volts.

The unit by which electric energy, or the ability of electricity to do work, is measured. A thousand watts, or one kilowatt, equals 1.34 horsepower.

FALLS [top]

Adjustable suspension scaffold
A suspension scaffold equipped with a hoist that can be operated by an employee on the scaffold.

A secure point of attachment for lifelines, lanyards, or deceleration devices.

Body belt
A strap with means both for securing it about the waist and for attaching it to a lanyard, lifeline, or deceleration device. (As of January 1, 1998 body belts are not acceptable as part of a personal fall arrest system.)

Body harness
Straps which may be secured about the employee in a manner that will distribute the fall arrest forces over at least the thighs, pelvis, waist, chest, and shoulders, with means for attaching it to other components of a personal fall arrest system.

A rigid connection that holds one scaffold member in a fixed position with respect to another member, or to a building or structure. See Cross braces.

A structural block used at the end of a platform to prevent the platform from slipping off its supports. Cleats are also used to provide footing on sloped surfaces such as crawling boards.

A device that is used to couple (connect) parts of the personal fall arrest system and positioning device systems together. It may be an independent component of the system, such as a carabiner, or it may be an integral component of part of the system, such as a buckle or D-ring sewn into a body belt or body harness, or a snaphook spliced or sewn to a lanyard or self-retracting lanyard.

Controlled access zone (CAZ)
An area in which certain work (e.g., overhand bricklaying) may take place without guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, or safety net systems, and access to the zone is controlled.

Cross braces
Two braces which cross each other in the form of an X.

Deceleration device
Any mechanism, such as a rope grab, rip-stitch lanyard, specially-woven lanyard, tearing or deforming lanyard, automatic self-retracting lifeline/lanyard, etc., which serves to dissipate a substantial amount of energy during a fall arrest, or otherwise limit the energy imposed on an employee during fall arrest.

Deceleration distance
The additional vertical distance a falling employee travels, excluding lifeline elongation and free fall distance, before stopping, from the point at which the deceleration device begins to operate. It is measured as the distance between the location of an employee's body belt or body harness attachment point at the moment of activation (at the onset of fall arrest forces) of the deceleration device during a fall, and the location of that attachment point after the employee comes to a full stop.

Fabricated frame scaffold
A scaffold consisting of platforms supported on fabricated end frames with integral posts, horizontal bearers, and intermediate members.

Load refusal, breakage, or separation of component parts. Load refusal is the point where the ultimate strength is exceeded.

Free fall
The act of falling before a personal fall arrest system begins to apply force to arrest the fall.

Free fall distance
The vertical displacement between onset of the fall and just before the fall arrest system begins to apply force to arrest the fall. This distance excludes deceleration distance, and lifeline/lanyard elongation, but includes any deceleration device slide distance or self-retracting lifeline/lanyard extension before they operate and fall arrest forces occur.

Guardrail system
A barrier erected to prevent employees from falling to lower levels.

A gap or void 2 inches (5.1 cm) or more in its least dimension, in a floor, roof, or other walking/working surface.

A manual- or power-operated mechanical device to raise or lower a suspended scaffold.

Impossible to perform the construction work using a conventional fall protection system (i.e., guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system) or technologically impossible to use any one of these systems to provide fall protection.

Ladder stand
A mobile, fixed-size, self-supporting ladder consisting of a wide flat tread ladder in the form of stairs.

A platform at the end of a flight of stairs.

A flexible line of rope, wire rope, or strap which generally has a connector at each end for connecting the body belt or body harness to a deceleration device, lifeline, or anchorage.

Leading edge
The edge of a floor, roof, or formwork for a floor or other walking/working surface (such as the deck) which changes location as additional floor, roof, decking, or formwork sections are placed, formed, or constructed. A leading edge is considered to be an "unprotected side and edge" during periods when it is not actively and continuously under construction.

A component consisting of a flexible line connected vertically to an anchorage at one end (vertical lifeline), or connected horizontally to anchorages at both ends (horizontal lifeline), and which serves as a means for connecting other components of a personal fall arrest system to the anchorage.

Low-slope roof
A roof having a slope less than or equal to 4 to 12 (vertical to horizontal).

Lower levels
Those areas or surfaces to which an employee can fall. Such areas or surfaces include, but are not limited to, ground levels, floors, platforms, ramps, runways, excavations, pits, tanks, material, water, equipment, structures, or portions thereof.

Maximum intended load
The total load of all persons, equipment, tools, materials, transmitted loads, and other loads reasonably anticipated to be applied to a scaffold or scaffold component at any one time.

A gap or void 30 inches (76 cm) or more high and 18 inches (48 cm) or more wide, in a wall or partition, through which employees can fall to a lower level.

Open sides and ends
The edges of a platform that are more than 14 inches (36 cm) away horizontally from a sturdy, continuous, vertical surface (such as a building wall) or a sturdy, continuous horizontal surface (such as a floor), or a point of access. Exception
For plastering and lathing operations the horizontal threshold distance is 18 inches (46 cm).

Overhand bricklaying
The process of laying bricks and masonry units such that the surface of the wall to be jointed is on the opposite side of the wall from the mason, requiring the mason to lean over the wall to complete the work. Related work includes mason tending and electrical installation incorporated into the brick wall during the overhand bricklaying process.

Personal fall arrest system
A system used to stop an employee in a fall from a working level. It consists of an anchorage, connectors, a body harness, and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or suitable combinations of these. As of January 1, 1998, using a body belt for fall arrest is prohibited.

A work surface elevated above lower levels. Platforms can be constructed using individual wood planks, fabricated planks, fabricated decks, and fabricated platforms.

Positioning device system
A body belt or body harness system rigged to allow an employee to be supported on an elevated vertical surface, such as a wall, and work with both hands free while leaning.

Rated load
The manufacturer's specified maximum load to be lifted by a hoist or to be applied to a scaffold or scaffold component.

Rope grab
A deceleration device which travels on a lifeline and automatically, by friction, engages the lifeline and locks so as to arrest the fall of an employee. A rope grab usually employs the principle of inertial locking, cam/level locking, or both.

The exterior surface on the top of a building. This does not include floors or formwork which, because a building has not been completed, temporarily become the top surface of a building.

Roofing work
The hoisting, storage, application, and removal of roofing materials and equipment, including related insulation, sheet metal, and vapor barrier work, but not including the construction of the roof deck.

Safety-monitoring system
A safety system in which a competent person is responsible for recognizing and warning employees of fall hazards.

Any temporary elevated platform (supported or suspended) and its supporting structure (including points of anchorage), used for supporting employees or materials or both.

Self-retracting lifeline/lanyard
A deceleration device containing a drum-wound line which can be slowly extracted from, or retracted onto, the drum under slight tension during normal employee movement, and which, after onset of a fall, automatically locks the drum and arrests the fall.

A connector comprised of a hook-shaped member with a normally closed keeper, or similar arrangement, which may be opened to permit the hook to receive an object and, when released, automatically closes to retain the object. Snaphooks are generally one of two types
The locking type with a self-closing, self-locking keeper which remains closed and locked until unlocked and pressed open for connection or disconnection; or the non-locking type with a self-closing keeper which remains closed until pressed open for connection or disconnection. As of January 1, 1998, the use of a non-locking snaphook as part of personal fall arrest systems and positioning device systems is prohibited.

Stair tower (Scaffold stairway/tower)
A tower comprised of scaffold components and which contains internal stairway units and rest platforms. These towers are used to provide access to scaffold platforms and other elevated points such as floors and roofs.

Steep roof
A roof having a slope greater than 4 in 12 (vertical to horizontal).

A pair of poles or similar supports with raised footrests, used to permit walking above the ground or working surface.

A low protective barrier that will prevent the fall of materials and equipment to lower levels and provide protection from falls for personnel.

Tubular welded-frame scaffold
See Fabricated frame scaffold.

Unprotected sides and edges
Any side or edge (except at entrances to points of access) of a walking/working surface, e.g., floor, roof, ramp, or runway, where there is no wall or guardrail system at least 39 inches (1.0 m) high.

Unstable objects
Items whose strength, configuration, or lack of stability may allow them to become dislocated and shift and therefore may not properly support the loads imposed on them. Unstable objects do not constitute a safe base support for scaffolds, platforms, or employees. Examples include, but are not limited to, barrels, boxes, loose bricks, and concrete blocks.

Walking/working surface
Any surface, whether horizontal or vertical, on which an employee walks or works, including, but not limited to, floors, roofs, ramps, bridges, runways, formwork, and concrete reinforcing steel, but not including ladders, vehicles, or trailers, on which employees must be located in order to perform their job duties.

A portion of a scaffold platform used only for access and not as a work level.

Warning line system
A barrier erected on a roof to warn employees that they are approaching an unprotected roof side or edge, and which designates an area in which roofing work may take place without the use of guardrail, body belt, or safety net systems to protect employees in the area.


A wedge, block, or large stone placed against the tires of a vehicle to prevent its moving, especially on an incline.

The total system of support for freshly placed or partially cured concrete, including the mold or sheeting (form) that is in contact with the concrete as well as all supporting members including shores, reshores, hardware, braces, and related hardware.

Jacking operation
The task of lifting a slab (or group of slabs vertically from one location to another (e.g., from the casting location to a temporary (parked) location, or to its final location in the structure), during the construction of a building/structure where the lift-slab process is being used.

Lift slab
A method of concrete construction in which floor and roof slabs are cast on or at ground level and lifted into position using jacks.

Limited access zone
An area alongside a masonry wall that is under construction and clearly demarcated to limit access by employees.

Pre-cast concrete
Concrete members (such as walls, panels, slabs, columns, and beams) which have been formed, cast, and cured before final placement in a structure.

The construction operation in which shoring equipment (also called reshores or reshoring equipment) is placed, as the original forms and shores are removed, to support partially cured concrete and construction loads.

Rollover protective structure (ROPS)
Vehicle structures such as roll-bars, frames, roll-protective cabs etc., designed to prevent the vehicle operator from being crushed as a result of a rollover.

A device, usually worn around the waist, consisting of a strap or straps anchored to a vehicle so as to hold a person in his seat.

A supporting member that resists a compressive force imposed by a load; or the operation by which a supporting member is placed.

Vertical slip forms
Forms that are jacked vertically during the placement of concrete.


Bell-bottom pier hole
A type of shaft or footing excavation, the bottom of which is made larger than the cross section above to form a belled shape.

Benching (Benching system)
A method of protecting employees from cave-ins by excavating the sides of an excavation to form one or a series of horizontal levels or steps, usually with vertical or near-vertical surfaces between levels.

The separation of a mass of soil or rock material from the side of an excavation, or the loss of soil from under a trench shield or support system, and its sudden movement into the excavation, either by falling or sliding, in sufficient quantity so that it could entrap, bury, or otherwise injure and immobilize a person.

Cross braces
The horizontal members of a shoring system installed perpendicular to the sides of the excavation, the ends of which bear against either uprights or wales.

Any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in an earth surface formed by earth removal.

The vertical or inclined earth surfaces formed as a result of excavation work.

The breakage, displacement, or permanent deformation of a structural member or connection so as to reduce its structural integrity and its supportive capabilities.

Hazardous atmosphere
An atmosphere which by reason of being explosive, flammable, poisonous, corrosive, oxidizing, irritating, oxygen deficient, toxic, or otherwise harmful, may cause death, illness, or injury.

Protective system
A method of protecting employees from cave-ins, from material that could fall or roll from an excavation face or into an excavation, or from the collapse of adjacent structures. Protective systems include support systems, sloping and benching systems, shield systems, and other systems that provide the necessary protection.

An inclined walking or working surface that is used to gain access to one point from another, and is constructed from earth or from structural materials such as steel or wood.

Registered Professional Engineer
A person who is registered as a professional engineer in the state where the work is to be performed. However, a professional engineer registered in any state is deemed to be a "registered professional engineer" within the meaning of this standard when approving designs for "manufactured protective systems" or "tabulated data" to be used in interstate commerce.

The members of a shoring system that retain the earth in position and in turn are supported by other members of the shoring system.

Shield (Shield system)
A structure that is able to withstand the forces imposed on it by a cave-in and thereby protect employees within the structure. Shields can be permanent structures or can be designed to be portable and moved along as work progresses. Additionally, shields can be either pre-manufactured or job-built in accordance with 29 CFR 1926.652(c)(3) or 29 CFR 1926.652(c)(4). Shields used in trenches are usually referred to as "trench boxes" or "trench shields."

Shoring (Shoring system)
A structure such as a metal hydraulic, mechanical, or timber shoring system that supports the sides of an excavation and which is designed to prevent cave-ins.

See Faces.

Sloping (Sloping system)
A method of protecting employees from cave-ins by excavating to form sides of an excavation that are inclined away from the excavation so as to prevent cave-ins. The angle of incline required to prevent a cave-in varies with differences in such factors as the soil type, environmental conditions of exposure, and application of surcharge loads.

The dirt, rocks, and other materials removed from an excavation and either temporarily or permanently put aside.

Stable rock
Natural solid mineral material that can be excavated with vertical sides and will remain intact while exposed. Unstable rock is considered to be stable when the rock material on the side or sides of the excavation is secured against caving-in or movement by rock bolts or by another protective system that has been designed by a registered professional engineer.

Structural ramp
A ramp built of steel or wood, usually used for vehicle access. Ramps made of soil or rock are not considered structural ramps.

Support system
A structure such as underpinning, bracing, or shoring, that provides support to an adjacent structure, underground installation, or the sides of an excavation.

Tabulated data
Tables and charts approved by a registered professional engineer and used to design and construct a protective system

Trench (Trench excavation)
A narrow excavation (in relation to its length) made below the surface of the ground. In general, the depth is greater than the width, but the width of a trench (measured at the bottom) is not greater than 15 feet (4.6 m).

Trench box
See Shield.

Trench shield
See Shield.

The vertical members of a trench shoring system placed in contact with the earth and usually positioned so that individual members do not contact each other.

Horizontal members of a shoring system placed parallel to the excavation face whose sides bear against the vertical members of the shoring system or earth.

Source: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/construction/glossary.html

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