- Standard Number:
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.
Date: March 9, 1977
Reply to Attn of: CO
Subject: Enforcement Problems with 29 CFR 1926.652(c)
Donald Shay, Director To: Office of Compliance Programming
This memorandum concerns difficulties encountered in our office with the requirements of the above standard which specifies relevantly:
"Sides of trenches in hard or compact soil, including embankments, shall be shored or otherwise supported when the trench is more than 5 feet in depth and 8 feet or more in length. In lieu of shoring, the sides of the trench above the 5-foot level may be sloped to preclude collapse, but shall not be steeper than a 1-foot rise to each 1/2 foot horizontal . . . ."
Unfortunately, Area Offices have interpreted the standard to require that trenches in hard or compact soil be sloped above the 5 foot level to the point where sloping would have terminated if the trench had been sloped on a 1 to 1/2 foot basis from the bottom. While we recognize that such an interpretation would probably provide a greater margin of safety, the standard plainly requires only the 1 to 1/2 foot slope above the 5 foot level and cannot be stretched to require sloping as if from the bottom. Moreover, Commission law is now settled that sloping on a 1 to 1/2 foot basis above the 5 foot level is adequate. See Secretary v. Horowitz Bros., Inc., OSHRC Docket No. 3004, OSHD CCH 19,596.
For the foregoing reasons, we request a program directive to the field stating that citations for inadequate trench sloping in hard or compact soil under 29 CFR 1926.652(c) should not issue unless the trench is improperly sloped, i.e. less than a 1 foot vertical to 1/2 foot horizontal slope, above the 5 foot level. In the alternative, the inadequacy of the protection provided by the standard as written warrants the proper rewriting of the standard.
Baruch A. Fellner
Counsel for Regional Litigation