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.

December 14, 1977

Mr. Ed Mcghee
Executive Vice-President
International Association of Drilling Contractors
7400 Harwin Drive, Suite 305
Houston, Texas 77036

Dear Mr. McGhee:

This is in response to your letter regarding your request for acceptance of established practice Safety and Health Regulations for Construction, 29 CFR 1926.251(c)(3). I apologize for the delay in response.

The standard states: "Wire rope shall not be secured by knots, except on haul back lines on scrapers." In certain industries, including the oil field hauling industry, it appears that the accepted practice has been to attach a length of chain to a winch line (wire rope) by passing the end of the winch line through the end link of the chain and then tying a knot in the end of the winch line. The knot pressing against the chain link, prevents the winch line from slipping through the chain link. This practice is a recognized hazard for material handling and not practiced by other industries. In addition, it is at variance with established Federal standards and nationally recognized safety authorities.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration in administering the Act is mandated to enforce its safety and health standards. The OSHA standards that prohibit securing wire rope by knots are 29 CFR 1926.251(c)(3), [1915.112(b)(4), 1917.42(b)(5), and 1918.62(b)(6)].

In order to substantively modify the requirements of an existing standard, the Secretary must follow the statutory requirements outlined in Section 6(b) of the act. These statutory requirements ate designed to give all parties who may be affected by a modification of a standard the opportunity to comment on the advisability of changing the standard. Accordingly, while comments from employers or trade associations may provide the basis for a proposed modification of a standard, the actual revision of the standard cannot take effect until adequate notice is given to all parties in order to give them an opportunity to respond.

Section 6(d) of the Act provides for the granting of variances from standards in those cases in which "the conditions, practices, means, methods, operations, or processes used or proposed to be used by an employer will provide employment and places of employment to his employees which are as safe and healthful as those which would prevail if he complied with the standard."

It may be appropriate for the members of the employer associations, as a class, to file a written application for a variance. 29 CFR 1905.11, copy enclosed, provides the requirements for this procedure. I would suggest your application include the specifics for the entire system, not just a knot in a wire rope. It would be advantageous if you could show that the system has been accepted, certified, listed, labeled, or otherwise determined to be safe by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

Meanwhile, the results of the tests being conducted by R. C. Williams, Inc., Oil Field Trucking, may eliminate this hazard in a feasible manner.

If I may be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.


Eula Bingham
Assistant Secretary
Occupational Safety and Health


[Corrected 05/28/2004]