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.

April 24, 1991

Mr. Rex E. Johnson
Sherard, Sherard and Johnson
Attorneys and Counselors at Law
602 10th Street
P.O. Box 69
Wheatland, Wyoming 82201

Dear Mr. Johnson:

This is in response to your letters of February 13 to Mr. Bruce Hillenbrand of the Directorate of Federal-State Operations, and March 12 to Mr. Raymond Donnelly of my staff.

In these letters, you requested clarification on two points, first, whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was applying in May of 1990 the same rules with respect to shielding of drive lines on pivotal sprinklers as it was in May of 1978. Second, you requested an interpretation of the meaning of the words "guarded by location" as they appear in 29 CFR 1928.57(a)(7)(i) and 1928.57(c)(5) of the OSHA Safety and Health Regulations.

To address your first question, there was nothing issued by OSHA during the period from May 1978 to May 1990 which would have changed this agency's position on the subject. It remains the same today as it was in 1978. Drive lines on pivotal sprinklers are considered to be guarded by location and therefore are not required by our regulations to be shielded.

The term "guarded by location" has two meanings, depending on the physical circumstances of the case under consideration. Consider a situation where a part of a machine, which is without its own guard, but is located in a position in the general machinery complex, where it would be practically impossible to be contacted by an employee with any part of his body or clothing. This is one application of the term, and the part described above would be deemed to have been guarded by its location.

The other interpretation, which more nearly applies to your case, is where a unit is so remote, and where the presence of employees who might possibly suffer injury is not casual or frequent, but where exposure to the hazard could potentially occur only during infrequent servicing and maintenance operations on units in remote outdoor locations.

It is our understanding, and in fact the basis of our previous interpretation, that these irrigation systems operate, far away from any employee, and that employees are present only during servicing and maintenance operations. Under these conditions the shaft is considered to be guarded by location during the operation of the system. Since the system cannot be considered guarded by location whenever employees are present, it must be shut off (power disconnected) or guarded during servicing and maintenance.

Our interpretation of May 25, 1978, to Mr. Laverne E. Stetson, is therefore reaffirmed. For OSHA enforcement purposes center pivot irrigation system drive shafts may be considered guarded by location during operation, in the absence of employees. They are not, however guarded by location during servicing, maintenance or any other operation necessitating the presence of employees.

However, you informed Mr. Joseph Ashley of my staff, in a recent telephone conversation, that the accident with which you are concerned occurred within the State of Wyoming. Since Wyoming is one of the States which operate its own State plans to enforce workplace safety and health standards, your incident would fall under their jurisdiction if employees had been exposed. We recommend you contact the Wyoming Department of Occupational Health and Safety, telephone number (307)777-7786, to determine if the State interpretation on the above points would differ from ours.

Finally, please be aware that OSHA regulations are, and always have been, confined to the protection of employees in the workplace and are not meant to be applied to members of the general public who are not, in fact, employees.

I hope that the above discussion of the questions you raised will be of assistance to you.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs