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 http://www.osha.gov.

July 18, 2001

Mr. A. W. Schlendorf
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Building 103M
P. O. Box 5000
Upton, N.Y. 11973-5000

Re: 1926.451(f)(6); 1926.955 Table V-2; scaffolds; power lines; minimum approach distances

Dear Mr. Schlendorf:

This is in response to your March 5, 2001, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Question: Is the following statement accurate (from an article titled "Protecting Construction Workers from Power Lines" in the Fall/Winter 2000 edition of the Job Safety & Health Quarterly magazine):

The following minimum clearances must be maintained between scaffolds and exposed energized power lines:
  • 2 feet for insulated power lines of less than 300 volts . . .

You note that the Table in OSHA's scaffold standard states that a three-foot minimum distance is required for this situation, and ask if the 2-foot distance mentioned in the magazine is incorrect.

Answer: Section 1926.451(f)(6) of the scaffold standard states that scaffolds shall not be erected, used, dismantled, altered, or moved such that they or any conductive material handled on them might come closer to exposed and energized power lines than the applicable minimum approach distance table in the scaffold standard. Under the table, for insulated lines of less than 300 volts, the minimum clearance distance is 3 feet; for uninsulated lines, it is 10 feet.

Thus, as you correctly noted, construction workers working from scaffolds close to but not on overhead power lines must meet the clearances found in the table referenced in 29 CFR 1926.451(f)(6). It requires that a scaffold used in proximity to an insulated power line of less than 300 volts be no closer than 3 feet. We believe the article you reference is in error. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Please let us know if you need any further clarification on this subject and feel free to contact us again by writing to: Directorate of Construction- [Office of Construction Standards and Enforcement, Room N-3468], 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.


Russell B. Swanson
Director, Directorate of Construction