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 16, 1984

MEMORANDUM FOR:     RUSSELL B. SWANSON
                    REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR

FROM:               JOHN B. MILES, JR., DIRECTOR 
                    DIRECTORATE OF FIELD OPERATIONS

SUBJECT:            Request for Opinions of Federal Enforcement Activities
                    Relating to the Use of Short-Handled Hoes

This is in response to your memorandum dated February 13, subject as above.

A review of available records on 5(a)(1) citations has not revealed any of this nature in Federal enforcement activities. In addition, we have little if any data relating to short-handled hoes, such as case files, injury experience, workers' compensation data, ergonomic data, etc. We also note that Federal enforcement activities related to this subject can be classified as very minimal, in view of the fact the majority of the areas of the country involved are in State plan States. Nor is there any standard development contemplated.

Under 11(c), an employee would be protected in complaining about back problems attendant to using a short hoe. However, it is unlikely the employee would be protected in refusing to use the hoe because no real danger of death and serious injury could be shown. The employee, no doubt, would have to seek a remedy through regular statutory enforcement channels.

In the absence of any substantiating information upon which to base a response, we are of the opinion any action in this regard is a matter for regional decision. When Federal OSHA has the authority to conduct an inspection in this area, such as may be the case with certain Indian reservations, a determination of the classification of a violation would be made following the guidelines in Chapter IV of the FOM and in consultation with the Regional Solicitor.