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.

September 16, 1994

Richard F. Andree, CSP, PE, Ph.D. Vice President Director of Safety and Health Services Lovell Safety Management Co., Inc. 161 William Street New York, New York 10038-2675

Dear Dr. Andree:

Thank you for your letter of August 17, addressed to Assistant Secretary Joseph A. Dear, regarding the relationship between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards on Permit-Required Confined Space (1910.146) and Pulp, Paper and Paperboard Mills (1910.261).

Under OSHA's regulations dealing with the applicability of standards [1910.5(c)], specific standards prevail over more general standards dealing with the same conditions. In this case, the specific standard, 1910.261(b)(5), prevails over the more general standard, 1910.146, with regard to the entry of closed vessels, tanks, chip bins and similar equipment in pulp, paper, and paperboard mills. However, if employees are assigned to enter other "permit spaces" within pulp, paper, and paperboard mills, or are exposed to hazards not addressed in 1910.261(b)(5), then the provisions of 1910.146 apply for those entries.

Therefore, the answer to your first question, as to whether enforcement of 1910.261(b)(5) is precluded by the promulgation of 1910.146, is no. The answer to your second question, as to whether an employer is required to enforce the use of lifelines and safety harnesses as mandated in 1910.261(b)(5) in a non-permit confined space, is yes.

If you need further information, please contact Mr. Wendell Glasier on (202) 219-7216. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety.


Thomas J. Shepich Director, Directorate of Safety Standards Programs