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.

March 18, 1994

Mr. Quintin H. Frazier
Coordinator-Safety & Training
Plantation Pipe Line Company
945 East Paces Ferry Rd., N.E.
Post Office Box 18616
Atlanta, Georgia 30326

Dear Mr. Frazier:

Thank you for your letter of August 30, 1993 in which you requested clarification as to whether the Permit-Required Confined Spaces (PRCS) standard applies to your company's petroleum pipeline emergency response operations. Please accept our apology for the delay in this response.

According to your letter and subsequent telephone discussion with my staff on September 9, the scope of work done by your company while performing pipeline emergency response is primarily limited to: 1) containment and cleanup of the petroleum product, 2) necessary trenching and excavation to access the repair site, and 3) repair of the pipeline. Additionally, your company's policy which prohibits employees from entering pipelines is essential with respect to the PRCS standard. If effectively implemented, it would eliminate the pipeline as an area of employee exposure.

We agree, in your case, the standards which address the majority of the hazards to which your employees would be exposed are 29 CFR 1926.650 to 1926.652 (Trenching and Excavation), 29 CFR 1910.120 (Hazardous waste operations and emergency response), and Personal Protective Equipment standards found in 29 CFR 1910 and 1926. It goes without saying that these are not the only standards which would be applicable to your emergency response operation as employees may be exposed to other hazards not listed above. In addition, employers have a general duty to provide safe and healthful workplace.

Based on the information provided, your emergency response operation does not appear to be one to which the PRCS entry procedures would normally be applicable. However, if an open pipeline or pipe section met the criteria for a permit-required space, the standard would normally be applicable. However, if an open pipeline or pipe section met the criteria for a permit-required space, the standard would be applicable, and effective measures would have to be taken to bar entry.

We stress that in the absence of an on-site inspection by one of our Compliance Safety and Health Officers, we are not in a position to definitively state to what extent your company's petroleum pipeline emergency response operation is covered by the PRCS standard.

If you have further questions concerning this clarification, please contact Mr. Don Kallstrom in the Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance (202) 219-8031.


H. Berrien Zettler, Deputy Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs