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.

March 11, 1993

 

 

MEMORANDUM FOR: JAMES W. LAKE
Regional Administrator
 
THROUGH: LEO CAREY, Director
Office of Field Programs
 
FROM: ROGER A. CLARK, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs
 
SUBJECT: U.S. Navy Gas Free Engineering Program and Related Failure to Abate Citation

 


This is in response to your subject memorandum which was dated October 26, 1992.

The Navy's gas free engineering standards, NAVSEA S6470-AA-SAF-010, require that a Navy Gas Free Engineer certify fuel spaces for hot work. The ongoing discussions with the Navy concerning gas free engineering involve two principal issues: (1) whether a Navy Gas Free Engineering Technician is equivalent to a "competent person" under the provisions of 29 CFR [1915.7], and (2) whether a Navy Gas Free Engineer is equivalent to an NFPA Certified Marine Chemist (required in 29 CFR 1915.14). OSHA agrees that the Navy Gas Free Engineer meets or exceeds the requirements for and is equivalent to a "competent person" under the provisions of 29 CFR [1915.7].

It is emphasized that the Navy requires a Gas Free Engineer and not a Gas Free Engineering Technician to certify fuel spaces as safe for hot work. OSHA and the Navy are not at issue with respect to whether a Gas Free Engineering Technician is equivalent to an NFPA Certified Marine Chemist. Both OSHA and the Navy agree that a Gas Free Engineering Technician is not equivalent to an NFPA Certified Marine Chemist, and, therefore, not allowed to certify spaces which previously contained fuel as safe for hot work.

The Navy's assertion that NAVSEA S6470-AA-SAF-010 meets the "intent of the standard" involves a variety of issues, most of which have been resolved through extensive negotiations between OSHA and the Navy. However, the assertion by Puget Sound Naval Shipyard that issues involving the "intent of the standard" include a determination of whether a Gas Free Engineering Technician is equivalent to an NFPA Certified Marine Chemist is unfounded. This issue is not under consideration by either OSHA or the Navy, and as a consequence, the overall intent of the Navy's standards shall not be considered with respect to such a situation where the noted hazards were in violation of both OSHA standards and Navy standards.



October 26, 1992

 

 

 

 

MEMORANDUM FOR: ROGER CLARK, DIRECTOR
Directorate of Compliance Programs

TOM SHEPICH, DIRECTOR
Director of Safety Standards Programs
 
THRU: LEO CAREY, DIRECTOR
Office of Field Programs
 
FROM: JAMES W. LAKE
Regional Administrator
Region X
 
SUBJECT: U.S. Navy Gas Free Engineering Program and Related Failure to Abate Citation

 


Background

In July of 1984 (8+ years ago), the OSHA Bellevue Washington Area Office (BAO) sited the Puget Sound Navy Yard in violation of 29 CFR 1915.14(a) in that "Gas Free Technicians regularly certify fuel spaces for hot work. These technicians do not qualify for the equivalent of an NFPA qualified Marine Chemist."

The position of the Navy in this citation was that the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) gas Free Engineering Program (NAVSEA S6470-AA-SAF-101) met the intent of the standard.

The Navy submitted the "010" document as an alternate standard. Region X reviewed the "010" and found that the document paralleled the OSHA Marine Chemist requirement, but that the Navy was not in compliance with their own requirements.

In May of 1986 (6-1/2 years ago), the BAO cited the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Failure to Abate of 19 CFR 1915.14(a).

The Navy's reply was that the "010" standard and program met the intent of the standard, and in addition, each Gas Free Technician received 120 hours of classroom instruction and 120 hours of on-the-job training.

Although not stated, the implication given is that the Gas Free Technicians, by virtue of all this training and instruction, can perform the duties required of an NFPA certified Marine Chemist.

In March of 1987 (5-1/2 years ago), Leo Carey informed Regional Administrators that "the final version of the DOD confined space standard also known as the Navy Gas Free Engineer Standard had been rejected by the Directorate of Safety Standards and therefore was not approved. Carey then advised that inspectors should used the existing OSHA standards concerning qualifications of Marine Chemists in evaluating Federal agency requirements.

Present Time

To Region X's knowledge, there has been no resolution of the approval or disapproval of the Navy's Gas Free Engineering Program.

Because of the lack of resolution, the Failure to Abate citation is now nearly six and one-half years old.

I would like to know if your offices agree with Region X in this matter:

 

 

* Region X strongly recommends that a certified Marine Chemist, the Navy Gas Free Engineer, or the Assistant Gas Free Engineer (when qualified in accordance with paragraph 1-20.2 of the "010" document) be the ONLY persons allowed to permit hot work in spaces which previously contained fuel.

* Allowing Gas Free Engineering Technicians to certify these spaces would not offer equivalent protection to that which is required in the private sector.

* Although the Navy's Gas Free Engineering Technicians are highly trained, they meet the requirements of shipyard competent persons, and in no way, shape or form can be considered as meeting the education and training requirements of a NFPA certified Marine Chemist.

* Region X and other Regions cannot press for abatement because the problem cited in the original and failure-to-abate citations have still not been resolved with the Navy.

* OSHA, nationally, should aggressively pursue this problem in our Navy's repair yards, because of the belief that employees working under the above situations continue to be exposed to life threatening hazards unnecessarily.

Your prompt reply will be appreciated.