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 7, 1995

Dr. Jack L. Mickle, Ph.D.
Civil and Construction
Engineering Department
Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa 50011

Dear Dr. Mickle:

Thank you for your letter of July 10, in which you express your concerns with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) June 30 memorandum concerning the application of 29 CFR 1926.652 to house foundation/basement excavations.

We agree with you and the statistics you sent that trenches, in general, are dangerous. However, we do not believe that house foundation/basement excavations should be treated in the same way as utility trenches or similar excavations when the conditions outlined in the memorandum are present. As you point out, the memorandum does not mention a depth limit for the exemption. This is not thought to be a problem, as the average depth of house foundation/basements is seven to eight feet.

At this time, it is not likely that OSHA will revise the policy set forth in the June 30 memorandum. However, your comments have been forwarded to the appropriate offices for a further detailed review to determine whether or not the policy needs to be revised sometime in the future.

Thank you for your interest in this matter.


John B. Miles
Directorate of Compliance Programs