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.

July 20, 1990

Mr. Edwin M. Gately
Environmental/Safety Compliance Supervisor
Tri County Asphalt Corporation
R.D. 3 Box 561
Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey 07849

Dear Mr. Gately:

This is in response to your letters of May 1 and June 13, regarding Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Standard 29 CFR 1926.602(9)(ii).

I have had the matter of the use of a strobe light in lieu of an audible backup alarm reviewed by the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance in this Directorate and the Office of Variance Determination in the Directorate of Technical Support.

The use of a strobe light in lieu of an audible backup alarm does not satisfy the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.602(9) and would be a violation of that standard.

With respect to the alternative set forth in 29 CFR 1926(9)(ii), you have stated that the use of an employee to signal the front end loader operator, if the audible alarm is not used, would put that person in danger, not only from the loader but the traffic, as well. Yet you also stated that you were limiting the truck traffic in the stock pile area to one truck at a time, with all other traffic being held at the bottom of the hill. This would appear to eliminate the truck hazard, at least. Perhaps you could position the employee in question to avoid any danger from the loader.

With respect to a request for a variance, we are forwarding your letters and a copy of this letter to:

           Mr. James Concannon 
           Directorate of Technical Support
           Office of Variance Determination
           Room N3653
           200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
           Washington, D.C.  20210 (202) 523-7193

He has advised that, in order to obtain a variance from an OSHA standard, the requester must submit the appropriate evidence to support their contention that their alternative method, system, procedure, etc., is as safe and healthful as the requirements of the standard from which a variance is sought. For your convenience, I am enclosing a copy of 29 CFR 1905, Rules of Practice For Variances.

If you have any questions, you can contact Mr. Concannon directly.


Patricia K. Clark Director
Designate Directorate of Compliance Programs