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.

February 1, 1987

Mr. Owen B. Douglas, Jr., C.I.H.
Manager, Health and Safety
SPER Division
Weston Sper
Weston Way
West Chester, PA 19380

Dear Mr. Owen:

This is in response to your letter of January 20 regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Interim Final Rule for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. You requested an interpretation of section (j) of 29 CFR 1910.120 which addresses "Handling drums and containers."

Your questions concern the specifics of operations where opening drums and containers occur, namely: "(a) when a remotely operated drum opening device is actually required and (b) when can prior experience and training allow a drum to be opened using a bung wrench and manual pressure." OSHA's Hazardous Waste Site standard was written to be a performance oriented standard which sets forth the criteria to be met through safe workplace performance oriented goals. As such, specific requirements are not always addressed, rather, the goals of what is meant be accomplished are. Section (j)(2)(vi) states that "Drums and containers shall be opened in such a manner that excess interior pressure will be safety relieved. If pressure cannot be relieved from a remote location, appropriate shielding shall be placed between the employee and the drums or containers to reduce the risk of employee injury."

The employer is responsible for performing the work of drum opening in safe manner; how he accomplishes this goal is not available to him. It is not possible for OSHA to give you the characterization of the wastesite is unknown to us, and the conditions of each worksite vary greatly from site to site. If, as the standard says, pressure cannot be relieved safely from a remote location, then shields are to be used to protect employees from any hazards they may encounter.

If you should have any further questions, you may want to contact the OSHA Regional Office nearest you. The address and telephone number of the OSHA office nearest your office location in West Chester is:

U. S. Department of Labor - OSHA
Gateway Building
Suite 2100