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.

August 10, 1995

George S. Kennedy, CSP
Director of Safety
National Utility Contractors Association
4301 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 360
Arlington, Virginia 22203-1627

Dear Mr. Kennedy:

This is in response to your letter of April 18 requesting an interpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards addressing fall protection where employees are required or permitted to cross over excavations.

With regard to the minimum width an excavation must be before §1926.651(l)(1) applies, please be advised that OSHA concurs with California's regulation (§1541(l)(1)) addressing this issue. The Agency considers crossing narrow trenches (30 inches or less in width) without a walkway with guardrails to be a de minimis condition. Therefore, walkways or bridges with standard guardrails must be provided when employees or equipment are required or permitted to cross over excavations only when the excavation is 6 feet or more in depth and wider than 30 inches at the top.

If we can be of any further assistance, please contact me or Mr. Dale R. Cavanaugh of my staff at (202) 219-8136.


Roy F. Gurnham, P.E., J.D.
[Directorate of Construction]

[Correction 7/23/2003]