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.

November 14, 1989

The Honorable Alan B. Mollohan
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Mollohan:

This is in response to your inquiry of September 7, addressed to Deputy Assistant Secretary Alan C. McMillan, on behalf of your constituents, representatives of the United Steelworkers (District 23, Local 1190), who are concerned with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards that may apply to one-man radio-controlled locomotives in the steel industry. We apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry.

Your constituents cited 29 CFR 1910.261(c)(9)(i), a specific requirement of OSHA's general industry standard on pulp, paper, and paperboard mills. This standard requires that a flagman direct the movement of cranes or locomotives at railroad cross-sections and at any point where the vision of the operation is obstructed. Your constituents questioned the lack of ability to apply this provision of OSHA standards to steel mills.

When OSHA developed its standard at 29 CFR 1910.261, it adopted the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard, ANSI P1.1-1969, entitled, "Safety Requirements for Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard Mills." As described in section 29 CFR 1910.261(a), these standards are specifically applicable to pulp, paper, and paperboard mills, and therefore cannot be applied to steel mills. Copies of a portion of ANSI P1.1-1969 and of 29 CFR 1910.261(a) are enclosed to clarify their scope and applicability.

There are no OSHA standards designed specifically to cover steel mills, and, also none covering operations involving one-man radio-controlled locomotives in steel mills. However, many of OSHA's standards for general industry are applicable to all types of facilities, including steel mills. Examples of general standards are those for walking/working surfaces, means of egress, and electrical standards. These are contained in subparts D, E, and S of OSHA's general industry standards, respectively.

In the absence of specific OSHA standards for one-man radio-controlled operations, the associated hazards are covered under Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). Under this section, employers are responsible for providing places of employment, which are free of recognized hazards which may cause death or serious physical harm to employees.

Industry consensus standards published by various industry organizations, such as ANSI, may be referenced by OSHA in the issuance of Section 5(a)(1) citations. The enclosed copy of section 3.4 of ANSI standard P1.1-1969 describes the use of a "blue flag" policy in the pulp, paper and paperboard mill industry. If the hazards associated with the one-man radio-controlled operation of locomotives are recognized by the employer or by the steel mill industry, Section 5(a)(1) citation(s) could be issued in situations where the use of the "blue flag" policy is not practiced and employees are exposed to serious hazard(s). If your constituent's expressed concerns relate to a particular steel mill, they may bring them to the attention of the management of that steel mill. They may also file a complaint with the nearest OSHA Area Office regarding their expressed concerns or any other concerns that pertain to job-related hazards.

Thank you for your interest in safety and health. If we can be of further service, please do not hesitate contact us.


G.F. Scannel
Assistant Secretary