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 13, 1993

Mr. Richard Shaw
Assistant Director of Safety
Tyson Seafood Food Group
Post Office Box 79021
Seattle, Washington 98119

Dear Mr. Shaw:

This is in response to your request for a permanent variance from section 1910.135 concerning occupational head protection. Specifically, you wish to substitute a high-density polyethylene shell used for "white-water" sports (e.g. Kyacking) for the helmet prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under this head protection standard. A variance from the head protection standard is not necessary in work spaces where no flying or falling hazard exists. However, in work spaces where falling and flying hazards are present, a permanent variance would be inappropriate unless you obtain direct evidence that alternative helmets provide protection from vertical impact equal to, or better than, the level of protection defined by section 1910.135.

According to the standard, you must first recognize and determine when head protection is necessary. Tyson Seafood, therefore, should inspect work spaces on board fishing vessels and determine if the helmets prescribed by the head protection standard are required on board the vessels to protect against falling and flying objects. If a need cannot be identified in these work spaces, a variance from 1910.135 is unnecessary because head protection is not required.

For situations in which wearing a helmet defined under the OSHA standard is mandatory, you have two options. You can determine if a helmet meeting your specific needs as well as ANSI Z89.1 is available commercially. As a second option, you or the helmet manufacturer would have to submit the polyethylene shell (or any other helmet considered acceptable, but not yet tested in accordance with the ANSI standard) to a certified laboratory for testing in accordance with the enclosed ANSI Z89.1-1969 or the current ANSI protective helmet standard, ANSI Z89.1-1986. Once the helmet is certified, the requirements of section 1910.135 would be met and a variance would be unnecessary.

If you have any questions, please contact Juanita Jones at (202) 219-7193 or Hank Woodcock at (202) 219-7065.


Patricia K. Clark Director
Directorate of Technical Support