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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

November 14, 1996

Mr. Steven Jay Sherman, CIH
Manager, Industrial Hygiene Compliance
85 Metro Park
Rochester, NY 14623-2674

Dear Mr. Sherman:

This is in response to your letter of August 20, in which you requested regulatory interpretation regarding railroad tankcars off-loading points at an industrial facility.

You indicated that you are presently assisting a client in the design of a chlorine tank car off-loading site, which will utilize the railcar ladder for employee access to the top of the car every (approximately) 12 days at the time of connect/disconnect of the tankcar to the facility's process supply lines. A catwalk of less than 3 feet in length is planned to fill the gap between the edge of the building and the bottom rung of the tankcar's ladder. The gap between the catwalk's edge and the ladder will be less than 12 inches. This is in lieu of the usual swing-out catwalks that most facilities use for walkout at the level of the tankcar lid.

Your specific questions and our responses are as follows:


Presuming that the railcar's permanent ladder meets currently applicable OSHA standards, is there any reason why this ladder could not be used as the primary means to access the work area at the top of the car?


If the railcar's permanent ladder meets the applicable Department of Transportation (DOT) standards and/or OSHA standards, it may be used to access the work area on top of the car.


Since the ladder would be used less than once per week, would it be permissible to classify the use of the ladder as a maintenance operation? Obviously, the ladder would also be used for access during any emergencies where tankcar shutoff is necessary.


We see no reason to classify the use of the ladder as a maintenance operation, since what you have described would not be considered as maintenance. That is, the use of the ladder to ascend/descend and connect/disconnect hoses on top of the car is part of the process or the operation and is not considered to be maintenance. We would like to suggest that you contact the free consultation services in your state (see attachment). A consultant can come to the site(s) in question and assist you with the compliance issues of concern. It may be prudent to consider these services, since it is difficult for OSHA to formulate a detailed response to your questions without seeing the process or maintenance protocol that you are referring to.


Are there any other OSHA regulations specific to such railcar off-loading, and in particular, to proper stabilizing or immobilizing of the railcar during its off-loading, etc.? The Railroad Administration has advised that they are primarily concerned with safety during movement of tankcars and deferred to OSHA and the Chlorine Institute for guidance regarding safety issues while the tankcar is parked.


The Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over loading and unloading operations. We suggest that you contact DOT for regulations concerning the stabilization of vehicles during these operations.

Thank you for your inquiry. If we can be of further assistance, please contact Alcmene Haloftis of my staff at 202 219-8031.


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs