Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

May 10, 1996


Memorandum for: Byron R. Chadwick,
Regional Administrator
From: John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs
Subject: Request for clarification on issuing citations for
1910.38 referenced in 1910.157, and how they would
apply to a industry covered by 1910.269.


This is in response to your request of February 26, for clarification of the above-mentioned standards with an ongoing inspection. After reviewing all the material, we decided that additional interpretative guidance on the interplay of these standards is appropriate. Since the scope of 1910.38 prohibits its general "stand alone" application, we have optioned to respond to your clarification request through the following two questions that support the June 24, 1992-memorandum.

Question 1: Must an employer have an emergency action plan or a fire prevention plan under 1910.38 when he has all (100%) of his employees use fire extinguishers under 1910.157 to fight incipient stage fires?

When the employer has a written policy and has provided portable fire extinguishers and training to all employees for fighting workplace fires, 29 CFR 1910.157 applies in its entirety. No plans are necessary nor citable even if provided. Appendix A to Subpart L adds clarity to the employer's options in the 1910.157 standard. If (all) employees are expected to fight fires at the incipient stage, the required training and education of paragraph (g) in 1910.157 will address the emergency procedures to be taken by employees should their efforts fail to suppress the fire.

Appendix A appropriately emphasized training and education by stressing that it is of the utmost importance to employers and employees. It states "If an employer is going to permit an employee to fight a workplace fire of any size, the employer must make sure that the employee knows everything necessary to assure the employee's safety." The appendix goes on to stress that employers must make sure that employee training and education address not only how to fight each type of anticipated fire, but, when it is time to get away and leave fire fighting to more experienced fire fighters as well as the safest way to escape. Thus, if an employer has a written policy that all employees fight fires, the employer cannot be cited for violations under 1910.38 by referencing 1910.157.

Where employers chose, as a matter of written policy, to permit less than all (100%) employees to respond and initiate suppression of incipient stage fires, the exceptions referenced in paragraph (b)(2) of 1910.157 apply. This standard paragraph is clear. If less than all employees are permitted to fight fires, then the employer must implement an emergency action plan and a fire prevention plan meeting all the requirements of 1910.38.

Question 2: Can standards like 1910.157 and 1910.38 be cited where the employer's work activity is covered by 1910.269?

Yes. However, there is no specific requirement in 1910.269 for either an emergency action or fire prevention plan. The general application paragraph at (a)(1)(iii) specifically states that 1910.269 applies in addition to all other applicable standards contained in this Part 1910. The preamble of 1910.269 (pg 4341) discusses this question as follows:

"Paragraph (a)(1)(iii) of the final 1910.269 explains the application of this section with respect to the rest of part 1910. All other General Industry standards continue to apply to installations covered by this new standard unless an exception is given in 1910.269. For example, 1910.269(p)(1)(i) requires the critical components of mechanical elevating and rotating equipment to be inspected before each shift. This provision does not supersede existing 1910.180(d), which details specific requirements for the inspection of cranes. References in 1910.269 to other sections of part 1910 are provided only for emphasis."

Thus, should another General Industry standard require compliance with 1910.38, the power generation standard would not disallow its application. Although 1910.269(v)(11)(xii) classifies the coal handling operations as a "hazardous location" (thus attempting to address one leg of the fire triangle by requiring all electrical installations to be appropriate for this classification), 1910.269(v)(11)(xii) does not specifically exempt the application of another standard like 1910.157 or 1910.38 from being applied.

In addition, we recommend that you also cite the company for violation of 1910.22, Housekeeping. We believe that the housekeeping standard can be used in this case based on the attached decision, Bunge Corporation, v. Secretary of Labor. In Bunge, a serious violation was upheld against the employer for accumulation of grain dust which appears to fit the situation described in this case.

Should you have further questions on this response, please contact [the Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-1850].