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.

April 14, 1981


FROM:               JOHN B. MILES, JR.,

SUBJECT:            Application of 1926.500(g)(1)

The standard for perimeter guarding of low-pitched roofs allows the use of a "safety monitoring system" under certain conditions. As you know, a question has arisen as to what the requirements for such a system might involve. Specifically that question asks for a definition of "monitoring" and to what extent a safety monitor might be engaged in the performance of other duties.

The standard itself is of little help in establishing the nature or extent of these "other duties". Indeed the standard and its definition of "safety monitoring system" (1926.502(p)(7)) rather clearly imply that he can have no "other duties".

The preamble to the regulation, on the contrary (45 F.R. 75621), states that the monitor is unrestricted in the performance of other duties so long as his monitoring function is not encumbered. How can anyone monitor when he is himself engaged in other duties as, for example, when he is part of the same work crew as those he is appointed to monitor?

The attached memorandum appears to express the belief that somehow a monitor can make a single judgment once and for all to determine that the other crew members are aware of the hazard and are not acting in an unsafe manner and can, consequently, go about his own task and no longer be concerned with monitoring his fellow workers. There is no suggestion made that an occasional reminder or monitoring check might be required to assure that other crew members continue to be actively aware of the hazard and to act safely. This is the issue raised by the question but is not addressed by the memorandum.

For this reason, the attached memorandum is not an adequate response to the question and fails to justify a withdrawal of the citation. Unless a better interpretation of the standard requirements on this matter is produced, Region I will be compelled to continue to enforce the standard to mean that the monitor cannot be engaged in activities which would in any way interfere with his monitoring function.