Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

August 5, 1992

Kenneth G. Fellers Manager,
QA & Productivity
Johnson Controls World Services, Inc.
381 Eniwetok Drive, MS-JQAP
Los Alamos, NM 87544

Dear Mr. Fellers:

This is in response to your June 18 letter requesting an interpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard addressing competent person responsibilities at excavations. I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry.

In regard to whether the competent person mentioned in 29 CFR 1926.651(k)(1) must be on site at all times, please be advised that there is no blanket requirement that a competent person be present at a construction jobsite at all times. The competent person can leave the site periodically, consistent with the goals of this section. It is the responsibility of the competent person to make those inspections necessary to identify situations that could result in hazardous conditions (e.g., possible caveins, indications of failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions), and then to insure that corrective measures are taken. It is, therefore, subject to the conditions present at each individual worksite whether or not a competent person is required to be present at the jobsite at all times.

If we can be of any further assistance, please contact Mr. Roy F. Gurnham or Mr. Dale R. Cavanaugh of my staff in the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance at (202) 523-8136 until September 27 and (202) 219-8136 thereafter.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Dlirectorate of Compliance Programs