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 23, 1999




MEMORANDUM FOR: William Q. Wiehrdt
Assistant Regional Administrator, Technical
Support Region V
THROUGH: Richard Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs
FROM: Herbert Washington, Director
Office of General Industry
Compliance Assistance
SUBJECT: Interpretation of 29 CFR 1910.146 and its applicability to fall hazards into pits.

This is in response to your memorandum of February 9, 1999, in which you requested an interpretation of the Permit Required Confined Spaces Standard (PRCS) 29 CFR 1910.146, arising from a letter submitted to your office by the State of Indiana.

Specifically your question is, "Whether a fall from 21 feet into a pit constitutes a serious hazard under the standard, therefore requiring a permit program to enter the space?" This question was further refined by telephone conversation with Mr. John Duncan with the State of Indiana to mean: "Would a pit, which meets the definition as a confined space, also meet the definition of a permit required confined space, if the only hazard is a potential fall from 21 feet while descending on a ladder within the pit?"

Specific fall protection requirements were not included in the PRCS standard. Fall protection and ladder safety requirements are addressed in Walking — Working Surfaces, 29 CFR 1910, Subpart D and the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Therefore, if the described potential fall hazard is the exclusive hazard within this pit, a permit program would not be required.

If we can be of further assistance, please contact [the Office of General Industry Enforcement] at 202-693-1850.

[Corrected 06/22/2007]