What’s The Difference Between ANSI and OSHA?

November 18, 2014

Twice a year, Vertical Access representatives attend meetings of the ANSI Z359 committee to assist in the creation and modernization of fall protection standards.  The ANSI Z359 suite of standards addresses just about all forms of fall protection equipment (harnesses, carabiners, lanyards, fall arrestors, etc) and associated work practices (rope access, rescue, management of fall protection programs, etc).  Before and after these meetings, we often field questions on the difference between ANSI and OSHA.  This article provides a brief overview of the two organizations and the documents they produce.

ANSI-word-cloudFounded in 1918, the American National Standards Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting “voluntary consensus standards.”  Those three words, “voluntary”, “consensus” and “standards” succinctly describe the documents that ANSI produces.  ANSI’s primary mission is to facilitate standards that, when adhered to, set a level of quality and safety across an entire industry.  These standards address everything from mold remediation, to transportation of nuclear materials, to bakery equipment and digital encryption.   The standards are consensus based because they are written and agreed upon by many members across the entire applicable industry: manufacturers, end users, testing laboratories, etc.  Lastly, the standards are voluntary in that ANSI has no enforcement power.

Technically speaking, ANSI itself does not develop standards.  Instead, ANSI develops and administers the procedures by which other organizations can create the actual standards.  ANSI will then accredit committees formed by other organizations and ultimately approve their documents as American National Standards.  These independent organizations are referred to as the secretariats to the ANSI accredited committees.  For example, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) acts as the secretariat to the ANSI Z359 Committee, the committee that Vertical Access serves on to create fall protection standards.

OSHA-word-cloudThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration  (OSHA) is a governmental agency that was created by Congress in 1971 as a subset of the Department of Labor.  Contrary to ANSI, OSHA’s mission is to assure safe working conditions for employees by “setting and enforcing standards”.  This enforcement aspect of OSHA is its primary distinction from ANSI.  Many OSHA regulations address similar topics as ANSI standards (e.g. fall protection), but where ANSI standards are voluntary, OSHA regulations are law.

ANSI standards, however, can be adopted by OSHA and become law in two primary ways.  Explicitly, OSHA can reference specific ANSI (or any other organization’s) standards in OSHA regulations.  This is referred to as “incorporation by reference”.  Implicitly, OSHA can require adherence to ANSI standards through the General Duty Clause, which states, “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards…”  This clause allows OSHA to cite employers for hazardous conditions that are not directly addressed by OSHA, but are addressed by other industry standards.

To recap, ANSI is a private organization that creates voluntary standards, while OSHA is a regulatory government body that has the power to write ANSI standards into occupational law.

Can you identify this building? – Series No. 2

November 14, 2014

Test your knowledge of historic and iconic buildings in the U.S. (and beyond!) in this series of “guess the building” blog posts.

Series No. 2: The “Cathedral of Presbyterianism”

A very modern grotesque was spotted high up on this nineteenth-century church with an impressive address. Some of the badly-deteriorated original stone carvings were replaced in the 1990s, which is when we suspect this fellow appeared. It may be a self-portrait by the stonecarver, a tradition that dates back to the construction of medieval cathedrals in Europe.

This brownstone church is often referred to as the “Cathedral of Presbyterianism.” The iconic hotel in the background is another good clue! Where is it? Scroll down for the answer.


5th ave


Answer: Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City. Completed in 1875, the church was designed by Carl Pfeiffer and is the largest Presbyterian sanctuary in Manhattan. Across the street is the 1904 St. Regis Hotel, also pictured above.


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Photos by Vertical Access.

Highlights from the 2014 APT Conference

November 14, 2014

Last month, Evan Kopelson, Berta de Miguel and Kristen Olson traveled to Quebec City for the annual conference of the Association for Preservation Technology International. APT is a cross-disciplinary member organization promoting the best technology for conserving historic structures and their settings¹. The theme of this year’s conference was métissage, or the fruitful encounter of differences.

Chateau Frontenac

The Monument to the Faith statue and fountain with the Chateau Frontenac behind.

The conference was held at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, an iconic historic hotel situated on a high cliff overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. The hotel is located within the fortified walls of the old city, the most intact example of a colonial walled city north of Mexico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Against this spectacular backdrop, the APT conference offered a chance to hear from preservation professionals engaged in all types of work around the globe. Over 600 people were in attendance, with four simultaneous presentation tracks exploring a variety of preservation and conservation topics. Presentations included case studies ranging from traditional mud-brick buildings to modern and even postmodern structures, and from the application of technology to characterize material properties to management strategies for academic campuses and national parks.

Evan Kopelson describes Vertical Access’ investigation of the Sibley Hall Dome.

VA Partner Evan Kopelson, along with Janet Null of Argus Architecture & Preservation, P.C. presented Sibley Hall Dome: Integrating Investigative Techniques to Diagnose and Preserve an Iconic Steel Roof. The presentation examined the cross-disciplinary approach and investigative techniques used by the project team to understand the condition of the dome and to determine appropriate treatments. As part of the team for the conceptual design phase, VA used industrial rope access to perform a hands-on investigation of the dome, built in 1902 to connect the existing east and west wings of Sibley Hall on the campus of Cornell University. VA used an ultrasonic thickness gauge to measure the thickness of the dome’s sheet metal cladding, and employed live-feed video to discuss connection details with project team members in real time. Moisture testing at the interior of the dome confirmed condensation as the cause of corrosion in limited areas. Hands-on inspection showed the structure and cladding of the dome to be in good shape overall, and the information gathered during the investigation led the project team to recommend a conservative repair treatment that will preserve much of the dome’s original fabric.

Lower Town

Place Royal in Quebec City’s Lower Town

The conference was packed with activities, but we found a little bit of time to explore Vieux Quebec, walking among 17th and 18th century buildings in the Lower Town and touring the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec. One of the highlights was getting to know our tablemates and deciding as a group which dessert to bid on during the Student Scholar Dessert Fundraiser auction.

The pear tart created by the Chateau Frontenac's pastry chef was amazing!

The pear tart created by the Chateau Frontenac’s pastry chef was amazing!


A narrow street in the Lower Town leading to the Funicular.

photo 1 (1)

Ceramic plaques identify historic buildings in the Lower Town.

photo 4

Many of the shops in the Lower Town have whimsical signs like this one.

Chateau at night

The Place d’Armes and Chateau Frontenac at dusk.

We’re looking forward to APT’s 2015 conference in Kansas City, Missouri!

To learn more about APT, visit www.apti.org. 

Vertical Access was proud to be a Conference Premier Sponsor for APT’s 2014 conference.

1 Paraphrased from apti.org.

Voice of America Profiles Vertical Access and the Use of Rope Access for Building Inspections

August 21, 2014

Company Gets Up Close and Personal with Skyscrapers

by Bernard Slushman, August 20, 2014

Historic landmark buildings, museums, the United States Capitol – all seen from top to bottom just inches from one’s face.  To get there you have to be an engineer, an archaeologist, and part-daredevil. It may look like fun, but this is serious business. One team from the company “Vertical Access” is preparing to survey the exterior of a 37-story Wall Street building. Literally climbing the walls is the cheapest way for engineers and architects to monitor a building’s rehabilitation and upkeep.

Watch Video and Read Full Article Here


The Quarterly – August 2014

August 12, 2014

Check out our August 2014 Quarterly newsletter.


Can you identify this building? – Series No. 1

August 11, 2014

Test your knowledge of historic and iconic buildings in the U.S. (and beyond!) in this series of “guess the building” blog posts.

Series No. 1: A Neoclassical “Temple of Liberty”

This iconic building has undergone several expansion campaigns since construction first began in the eighteenth century. It now contains over 600 rooms totaling 1.5 million square feet of space, and it is visited by millions of people annually. Where is this remarkable building? Scroll down for the answer.


Plate at Statue Col. 2 42-183-1


Answer:  The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Built in stages under the supervision of a half-dozen architects, the Capitol is an instantly-recognizable symbol of national identity. The massive cast-iron dome was surveyed by Vertical Access in 2007 and 2010, and is currently undergoing the first major restoration in over 50 years. Click here for more information about the Capitol and the dome restoration.


U.S. Capitol photo by Jon Reis Photography.

Don’t miss another architectural challenge: subscribe to our blog by signing up with your email address in the sidebar. Click here to see all of the posts in this series.

Photos by Vertical Access except where noted.

“Capitol” Projects

August 11, 2014

Capitols are among our favorite types of buildings to work on, and since our first investigation of the Massachusetts State House twenty years ago, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting ten of them – eight state capitols in addition to the U.S. Capitol and Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador Confederation Building. Earlier this month, Vertical Access returned to the Michigan State Capitol, where we first worked in 2005 with Quinn Evans Architects and The Christman Company.


Kent inspects the drum of the Michigan State Capitol in 2005.

The last major restoration of Michigan’s capitol was completed in 1992, and the purpose of our 2005 visit was to see how the paint coatings and materials were holding up at the drum, dome and lantern. Nine years later, with over twenty years elapsed since the 1992 restoration, we once again made the trip to Lansing, Michigan to inspect the dome. This time, there were also reports of water infiltration. Returning with the same project team, technicians Evan Kopelson and Keith Luscinski surveyed the dome, drum and lantern using TPAS™ (Tablet PC Annotation System) to document existing conditions for an upcoming repair project.

Do all of the state capitols have domes?

All but twelve of the fifty state capitols have an exterior dome (original plans for both the Ohio and New York State Capitols included domes that were never built). Many early state capitol buildings in the United States were topped with domes inspired by examples from Europe and ancient Rome. The U.S. Capitol dome, completed in 1866, set the standard for the state capitol domes that would follow. Most of the current state capitols were built after 1866, and the national capitol’s massive cast-iron dome had a strong influence on many of them.

Access challenges

It can be difficult to gain hands-on access to all of those domes and cupolas. Fixed ladders, access hatches, and windows usually provide a way to reach the exterior of a dome lantern or cupola, where we can set up anchors for rope access drops. But some buildings have no access systems in place, like the Wyoming State Capitol, where we hauled a heavy 40-foot ladder into the dome in order to climb to the top. Even with these challenges, using industrial rope access for domes, cupolas, and towers is fast, efficient, and economical compared to other means of access.

NJ before and after

The New Jersey State House before restoration (left, during VA’s 1996 investigation) and after restoration (right, during our 2013 visit).

Capital projects for capitol buildings

Monumental public buildings often have monumental price tags for restoration, with deferred maintenance being a major cost driver. Some of the challenges for building professionals working on state capitols include ever-changing occupant needs, increased standards for safety and security, accessibility, energy efficiency, and technology upgrades. Facilities maintenance was put on the back burner during the Great Recession, but many states are now moving ahead with repair and restoration projects. State capitols in the news for recent, ongoing, or planned repair and restoration campaigns include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, OregonSouth Dakota, and the U.S. Capitol.


A few of the conditions we’ve documented on capitol buildings.

Vertical Access’ “capitol” projects at a glance


Inspecting the U.S. Capitol dome. Photo by Jon Reis Photography.

United States Capitol

Dates and Architects: 1793 (William Thornton, Stephen Hallet), 1795-98 (George Hadfield), 1798-1802 (James Hoban), 1803-1818 (Benjamin Henry Latrobe), 1818-1826 (Charles Bulfinch), 1850-68 (Thomas U. Walter, Montgomery C. Meigs)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Cast iron

Scope of work: VA conducted a hands-on inspection of all of the cast iron dome’s exterior from the base of the Statue of Freedom to the peristyle column capitals.

Project team: Office of the Architect of the Capitol


The Michigan State Capitol in 2005.

Michigan State Capitol

Date and Architect: 1872-1878 (Elijah Myers)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Cast iron drum and sheet metal-clad dome, lantern and finial

Scope of work: VA inspected materials and paint finishes at the drum, dome, lantern and finial.

Project team: Quinn Evans Architects, The Christman Company




Inspecting the New Jersey State House in 1996.

New Jersey State House

Dates and Architects: 1792 (Jonathon Doane), 1845 (John Notman), 1871 (Samuel Sloane), 1889 (dome, Lewis Broome)

Landmark Status: Contributing resource in a National Register Historic District

Materials: Cast iron drum and lantern and gilded copper dome.

Scope of work: VA coordinated site investigations and safe access for a comprehensive restoration completed in 1999. Our 2013 investigation included ultrasonic testing, paint adhesion testing, and fiber-optic investigation with live-feed video.

Project team: (2013) Preservation Design Partnership, H2L2 Architects, Building Conservation AssociatesStephen McLaughlin Roofing Consulting (1996) Jan Hird Pokorny Architects & Planners, Robert Silman Associates, Vulcan Supply, Gold Leaf Studios, Preservation Architecture, Mazia/Tech-Com, Matthew J. Mosca, McKernan Satterlee Associates, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities



Documenting the roof trusses of the New York State Capitol.

New York State Capitol

Dates and Architects: 1867-1875 (Thomas Fuller), 1875-1883 (Leopold Eidlitz, Henry Hobson Richardson), 1883-1899 (Isaac G. Perry)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Iron roof trusses, iron and glass skylights

Scope of work: VA surveyed the trusses supporting the massive roofs, performed water testing and fiber-optic investigation, and provided client access to skylights.

Project team: (2003-2004) Robert Silman Associates, (2006) Simpson Gumpertz & Heger




Inspecting the gilded copper dome of the Massachusetts State House.

Massachusetts State House

Dates and Architects: 1795-1798 (Charles Bulfinch and Charles Brigham), 1917 (Sturgis, Chapman & Andrews)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Sheet copper

Scope of work: VA surveyed the dome, which was gilded in 1874 and had been painted many times since then. The dome was restored and re-gilded following VA’s investigation.

Project team: Goody, Clancy & Associates; Gold Leaf Studios




Keith inspects the Wyoming State Capitol.

Wyoming State Capitol

Dates and Architects: 1886-1917 (David W. Gibbs, William DuBois)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Cast iron, galvanized sheet metal, sheet lead, and gilded copper

Scope of work: VA conducted a 100% hands-on survey of the drum, dome, and lantern exterior, characterized the materials used at various locations, assessed the condition of paint coatings (including adhesion testing and removal of samples), and identified prior painting campaigns.

Project team: HDR Architecture, Preservation Design Partnership, Robert Silman Associates, GB Geotechnics USA


WV courtesy SHCA

Investigating the gilded dome of the West Virginia State Capitol. Photo by Swanke Hayden Connell Architects.

West Virginia State Capitol

Date and Architect: 1932 (Cass Gilbert)

Landmark Status: Contributing resource in a National Register Historic District

Materials: Gilded sheet copper and lead

Scope of work: VA performed an exterior condition survey of the dome and cupola.

Project team: Swanke Hayden Connell Architects



The interior rotunda dome of the Virginia State Capitol.

Virginia State Capitol

Date and Architects: 1785 (Thomas Jefferson, Charles-Louis Clerisseau)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Plaster, wood

Scope of work: VA provided access consulting for interior lighting of the capitol’s rotunda.

Project team: Hillier Architecture



Checking out the pediment sculpture at the Kentucky State Capitol.





Kentucky State Capitol

Date and Architect: 1905-1909 (Frank Mills Andrews)

Landmark Status: National Register of Historic Places

Materials: Limestone and granite

Scope of work: VA provided access and assisted in performing an exterior condition survey.

Project team: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.


Kelly inspects the Newfoundland and Labrador Confederation Building.

Newfoundland and Labrador Confederation Building 

Date and Architects: 1960 (Lawson, Betts, and Cash, with A.J.C. Paine)

Materials: Limestone and brick

Scope of work: VA conducted a hands-on survey of the limestone masonry, hammer-sounding each unit, and used non-destructive evaluation to identify blind delamination within limestone units.

Project team: Jokinen Engineering Services






This video from the Architect of the Capitol about the U.S. Capitol dome restoration includes photographs from VA’s condition survey.


All photographs by Vertical Access except where noted otherwise 


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