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.

February 1, 1999

Mr. Robert Harrell
Safety Management Services
4012 Santa Nella Place
San Diego, CA 92130-2291

Re: 1926 Subpart X, Scaffold stairs used for access to floors during construction of multistory buildings

Dear Mr. Harrell:

This is in response to your letters dated August 3, 1998 and October 20, 1998, to OSHA's Directorate of Construction. I apologize for the delay in providing this response.

In your first letter, you requested Federal OSHA's position regarding the use of scaffold stairs, which meet all the requirements in 1926 Subpart X (stairways and ladders), for temporary access to upper floors while constructing multistory buildings. You further stipulated that the scaffold stairs in question are not scaffold "access way stairs" which do not meet the requirements in 1926 Subpart X. In your second letter you enclosed a response you received from California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health on the same issue. You ask that we state whether we agree with their response.

When scaffold stairs are used for access to locations other than scaffold platforms, the provisions of 1926 Subpart X apply. Consequently, scaffold stairs which meet all the requirements of Subpart X may be used for temporary access to upper floors while constructing multistory buildings.

The letter from CAL/OSHA, which you enclosed for our review and comments, specifically addresses the issue of tower scaffold stairs and the fact that they may not be used as temporary stairways during construction of multistory buildings because they generally do not meet the Subpart X requirements, i.e. 24 inches in width, with handrails, treads, 30 inch landings, and a slope between 30 and 50 degrees. The federal OSHA requirements are similar to those of California's State OSHA program requirements except that California has enacted a more stringent provision by requiring the stairway width to be not less that 24 inches wide, versus 1926.1052(a)(1) which requires a minimum width of at least 22 inches.

A State that administers its own OSHA program is required to have a program that is at least as protective as the federal OSHA requirements. However, it may enact more stringent requirements. For this reason, it is important to keep abreast of current changes in your State's plan since California employers must comply with the more stringent requirement.

If you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again by writing to: U.S. Department of Labor (OSHA), Office of Construction Standards and Compliance Assistance, Room N3621, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction

[See also: 02/23/00 Letter to Gary Larson]