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.

September 3, 1999

Mr. James Elkins
Excel Modular Scaffold
502 Mount Parnassus Road
East Haddam, CT 06423

Re: 29 CFR 1926.451(h); Toeboard Requirement for Swing Gate Access

Dear Mr. Elkins:

This is in response to your April 5 correspondence to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requesting clarification on the use of toeboards for modular system scaffold towers which utilize inward swing style access gates. Specifically, you ask if this access point needs a toeboard since its existence may create a potential trip hazard for employees stepping in to and through the point of access.

OSHA's scaffold standards can be found in Subpart L, 29 CFR 1926.451-1926.454. One provision, §1926.451(h)(1), mentions toeboards as a means of protecting employees from falling object hazards. It reads in part:

In addition to wearing hardhats, each employee on a scaffold shall be provided with additional protection from falling hand tools, debris, and other small objects through the installation of toeboards, screens, or guardrail systems, or through the erection of debris nets, catch platforms, or canopy structures that contain or deflect the falling objects.

Section 1926.451(h)(2) further clarifies the employer's options. Where there is a danger of tools, materials, or equipment falling onto employees working below, the employer can choose to provide toeboards or barricade the area below the scaffolding to prohibit employees from entering the hazardous area. Depending on the size of the materials, paneling, screening, netting, or catch platforms may be used. Objects too large to be contained by the listed measures should be placed away from the platform edge and secured as necessary to prevent them from falling (volume 61 of the Federal Register, page 46,076). If there is a need for employees to work near the entry point (swing gate) of the scaffold, or there is a potential falling object hazard, then the employer must provide some type of falling object protection for the employees below.

OSHA agrees that a stationary toeboard, placed at the point of entrance, would create a substantial tripping hazard. As you suggested, one solution would be to attach a toeboard to the swing gate, thus removing the trip hazard as the gate is opened. Other possible solutions include moving the entry point to a new location, or preventing employees from entering the hazard zone below the entry point.

If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again by writing to: Directorate of Construction - OSHA, Office of Construction Standard and Compliance Assistance, Room N3467, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20210.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction