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.

March 6, 1979

Mr. F. G. Harvey
Bethlehem Steel Corporation
Bethlehem Plant
Bethlehem, PA 18016

Dear Mr. Harvey:

This is in further response to your letter of January 11, 1979, requesting a permanent variance and interim order from Sections 1910.1029(f)(2)(i)(g) and (f)(3)(i)(a)(2) concerning Coke Oven Emissions - Mechanized Standpipe Cleaners, of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards.

Your request for variance is not approved. The requirements of 29 CFR 1905.11(b)(4) are that the conditions, practices, means, methods, operations, or processes used or proposed to be used would provide employment and places of employment to employees which are as safe and healthful as those required by the standard from which a variance is sought.

It appears that you are requesting an exemption from the standard rather than meeting the requirements for a variance. This is not permitted.

Affected employees and their authorized representatives shall be notified of the denial of your application in the same manner they were informed of your request for a variance.

It does seem, however, that the situation may be able to be clarified amicably. With regard to Section 1910.1029(f)(3)(i)(a)(2), although it would be your responsibility to determine what would be a minimum diameter sufficient to effectively move the evolved gases from the oven to the collector mains based upon the configuration of your standpipes, OSHA will generally consider that standpipes should be cleaned when 20% or more of the cross-sectional area of the standpipe is blocked. If this buildup does not occur, cleaning would not be necessary. However, because standpipe blockage from carbon can occur within a single coking cycle due to a rapid change in coal properties, which the heaters could not instantaneously compensate for, inspection of the standpipes prior to each charge is imperative. Inspection of the standpipes should not expose the employees to additional coke oven emissions since just prior to the charge, when the standpipe should be inspected, the oven is empty and dampered off the collector main resulting, therefore, in no emissions from that oven. Also, the inspection can be done remotely by mounting a mirror on the larry car, or on a pole which can be used from the catwalk.

Finally, where cleaning is necessary, the use of air on the pusher ram to clean standpipes has been ruled to be an acceptable type of mechanized standpipe cleaner as long as a work practice is adopted which requires the pusher machine operator to stop the pusher ram under the standpipe to be cleaned and to use the air on the pusher ram to clean the standpipe. This procedure should, hopefully, alleviate problems associated with othe types of mechanized standpipe cleaners.

If you have any questions, please contact me, telephone (202) 523-7l93.


James J. Concannon Director
Office of Variance Determination