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.

October 2, 1996

Mr. William J. Hudnall
Deputy Administrator for Administrative Management
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Safety Inspection Service Administrative
Management Room 347E
J.L. Whitten Federal Building
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Mr. Hudnall:

This is in response to your September 11 letter requesting that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) review four documents the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) believes will bring their agency into compliance with the OSHA Standard, 29 CFR 1910.147, The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout). These documents are:

(1) the June 19, 1996, FSIS Directive 4791.11, entitled, "Lockout/Tagout Safety Awareness Assessment Procedures,"

(2) the booklet entitled, "Lockout/Tagout Lesson Plan for Inspectors,"

(3) the training video, "U.S.D.A. Lockout/Tagout" dated 5/96, and

(4) the booklet, "Lockout Tagout Pocket Guide" published and distributed by Genium Publishing Corporation, Schenectady, NY.

OSHA does not accept FSIS's use of the aforementioned documents to delegate its responsibility for the safety and health to its employees or to on-site employers (and their employees) at facilities undergoing FSIS required inspections. Under the lockout/tagout standard, FSIS, as an employer, must provide for the safety and health of its employees when performing inspections (which are considered servicing and maintenance activities) at worksites. Also, when FSIS employees are engaged in inspection activities covered by the lockout/tagout standard, the on-site employer must comply with paragraph 1910.147(f)(2).

OSHA believes that FSIS and the onsite employer can meet their responsibilities under the standard by establishing a joint energy control program that incorporates the group lockout or tagout provisions under paragraph 1910.147(f)(3). Supplemental group lockout/tagout guidelines are the subject of Appendix C, OSHA Instruction STD 1-7.3 (copy enclosed). Appendix C identifies group lockout or tagout scenarios. In each of these scenarios, servicing and maintenance personnel use an energy control procedure that affords employees a level of protection equivalent to that provided by the implementation of a personal lock or tag. Each employee, considered an authorized employee as defined under paragraph 1910.147(b), has exclusive control of energy isolating devices during servicing and maintenance of machines or equipment.

Enclosed are our specific review comments on each document provided to us. We recommend that FSIS revisit their belief that on-site employers should be responsible for the safety of FSIS inspectors while they are preforming pre-operational sanitation inspections. We request that FSIS immediately discontinue the implementation of their FSIS Directive 4791.11 and their training package. This program has created undue concern to your customers, confusion to FSIS inspectors, and increased complaints to OSHA.

We request that the agency prepare an abatement action plan for those locations (see enclosed list) that have received OSHA Notices of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions and/or OSHA Notices of Failure-to-Abate Alleged Violations of the Lockout/Tagout Standard. This plan should be submitted to OSHA by October 25, 1996. Please contact my office at [(202) 693-2122] should you have any questions.


John E. Plummer, Director
Office of Federal Agency Programs