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.

December 3, 2001

Tod A. Phillips, Esq.
Spain & Hastings
Attorneys at Law
2350 Two Houston Center
909 Fannin Street
Houston, Texas 77010

Dear Mr. Phillips:

Thank you for your July 11, 2001 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs (DCP). This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question or situation not delineated within your original correspondence. You had specific questions with respect to the application of OSHA safety and health standards to scaffold access. Please excuse our delay in responding to your letter.

In your letter, you requested clarification of applicable OSHA scaffolding standards for a scaffold located inside a large pontoon on a drilling rig which was dry-docked and being converted into a floating hotel. Also, you asked about the applicability of OSHA “regulations” versus “compliance directives.” OSHA's response to your specific questions are as follows:


Question: Are access gates preferred, under OSHA, in scaffold configurations incorporating a ladder-access to the work platform in place of the solid handrail and midrail protection?

Response: The project described in your letter is covered under OSHA's shipyard employment standards, 29 CFR Part 1915. Part 1915 Subpart E - Scaffolds, Ladders and Other Working Surfaces, addresses scaffolds for shipyard employment; you can find the specific requirements for access to scaffolds at 1915.71(k). There are no specific requirements under these rules that address access gates in scaffold configurations incorporating a ladder-access to the work platform in place of the solid handrail and midrail protection.

Note: Please contact the Division of Maritime Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-2399 should you have any questions regarding this portion of our response.

Question: What effect, if any, does OSHA CPL 2-1.23, Inspection Procedures for Enforcing Subpart L, Scaffolds Used in Construction - 29 CFR 1926.450-.454, have regarding the use, or non-use, of access gates in place of handrail and midrail protection? In other words, does OSHA distinguish between the application of “regulations” and the “compliance directives” as they apply to these items?

Response: The objective of OSHA's directive system is to ensure effective communication of the policies, procedures, and instructions concerning the Agency's operation. A directive typically focuses on one single subject or rule and may include compliance guidelines. However, for enforcement purposes, if a violation occurs then it is the actual regulation, not the directive, which is cited.

Following the publication of 29 CFR Part 1926, Subpart L, OSHA issued directive CPL 2-1.23 to aid compliance officers and other affected parties in interpreting the new scaffold rule. When explaining the access requirement, the directive states that “there is no consensus with regard to climbing over or through the guardrails, therefore, OSHA has not adopted a rule prohibiting the practice.” We apologize if this statement has caused any confusion, but generally speaking, this practice may not create a hazard. Only in special circumstances, as mentioned in paragraph K.5 of the directive, may conditions exist that create the need for a “gate, removable rails or chains.”


Note: Please contact the Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2345 should you have any questions regarding this portion of our response.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope that you find this information helpful. 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.

Sincerely,



Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs