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 http://www.osha.gov.

November 30, 1977

Mr. Lawrence E. Speece
1001 Dithridge Street
Jeannette, Pennsylvania 15644

Dear Mr. Speece:

Mr. Wilson has asked me to respond to your letter dated August 29, 1977, regarding the Elliott Company's plant-wide hard hat program. We are pleased to learn that you found the information illuminating in our reply dated August 16, 1977.

In reference to your quotation from the letter dated August 16, 1977, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can cite an employer for using his judgement in not requiring the use of hard hats when a hazard obviously exists, but can not cite for exercising judgement in requiring the use of hard hats when there is obviously no hazard. Nevertheless, between these two obvious extremes, a grey area often exists in matters of this sort where it is more prudent to be protected than to be surprised without protection. However, as mentioned in our letter, when employees are not exposed to possible head injuries, head protection is not required by the OSHA standards 29 CFR 1910.132(a) and 1910.135, which then becomes solely a matter of employment conditions existing between the employer and his employees, and where applicable, subject to any labor/management contractual agreement. As a final statement to your request for our opinion and advice, OSHA would have no jurisdictional right to intervene in such a case as you personally experienced for failure to wear the hard hat contrary to company policy.

As far as "good sound legal advice" is concerned on the subject matter, the preceding paragraph explains OSHA's position as related to the standards involved. Further than that, OSHA is in no position whatever to give legal advice. As you know, it is standard practice for employees with grievances on internal problems to petition for relief from management or to turn to their unions or bargaining group for advise and possible resolution.

I hope this additional information will be helpful to you. If I may be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.


John K. Barto, Chief
Division of Occupational
Safety Programming