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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 28, 1998
Mr. Jim W. Asaff
Smartshield Skin Research Labs
3311 Oak Lawn
Dallas, Texas 75219
Dear Mr. Asaff:
This is a response to your letter of August 12 to Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman. Your letter, which was sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for response, reflects your concerns for the protection of outdoor workers from the sun's radiation.
You state that in 1992 OSHA wrote a letter that required employers to protect employees from over exposure to the sun's radiation for outdoor workers. You conclude that OSHA made this ruling by means of a letter of interpretation dated June 2, 1992, a copy of which was enclosed with your letter. The letter was from Patricia K. Clark, former Director of the Directorate of Compliance Programs in the OSHA National Office, to Mr. William J. Green of Spokane, Washington.
We feel that you may be misinterpreting the letter to some extent. Hence, we offer these clarifying points. The letter acknowledges that rule 29 CFR 1910.132(a) requires employers to provide their employees overexposed to the sun's radiation with protective equipment. A key fact not discussed in the letter is that there must be an employee overexposure established to the sun's radiation in order for 29 CFR 1910.132(a) to apply. This means that an OSHA compliance officer must document that employees are overexposed to the sun's radiation before the officer can issue an employer a citation for not providing employees protective equipment for the sun's radiation.
OSHA is committed to requiring that employees overexposed to the sun's radiation be protected, however establishing an overexposure is difficult. OSHA does not have established exposure limits for radiation from the sun. In order to document overexposure OSHA must show that the exposure violates the general duty clause at Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (The Act). An exposure that violates the general duty clause is one that could cause death or serious physical harm.
We have considered your request that the Department of Labor raise awareness of the hazard of exposure to the sun. We have concluded that it is not necessary for the Department of Labor to issue this type of information because the public is well aware of the hazard through information from state public health services.
We appreciate the opportunity to clarify these matters for you. If you have any further questions, you may contact Mr. Gail Brinkerhoff in our Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 219-8036.
Richard E. Fairfax
Directorate of Compliance Programs