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.

January 30, 2002

The Honorable Dennis Moore
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-1603

Dear Mr. Moore:

I am writing in response to your October 31, 2001, letter. I apologize for the long delay in responding. As a result of government mail delivery delays due to the anthrax decontamination process, we did not receive your letter until December 31, 2001.

Your letter requests that we address Rau Construction Co.'s concerns about the definition of and policy concerning "controlling contractors" as reflected in OSHA's new steel erection standard, 29 CFR Part 1926, Subpart R. For purposes of the new Subpart R, which was published January 18, 2001, and takes effect January 18, 2002, "controlling contractor" means:

"a prime contractor, general contractor, construction manager or any other legal entity, which has the overall responsibility for the construction of the project - its planning, quality and completion."

Subpart R contains several specific duties that have been placed on the controlling contractor. They include:

1) ensuring that the steel erector is provided written notification that the footings, piers and walls have sufficient strength to support the loads imposed during the steel erection process [§1926.752(a)];

2) ensuring that adequate access roads and storage spaces are provided and maintained for the safe delivery, storage and movement of equipment and pedestrians [§1926.752(c)];

3) providing written notification to the steel erector of any repair, replacement or modification of the anchor bolts prior to erection of a column [§1926.755(b)(2)];

4) barring other construction processes below steel erection unless sufficient protection is provided for employees below [§1926.759(b)];

5) choosing either to accept control and responsibility of certain fall protection measures or having them removed [§1926.760(e)];

The standard placed these duties on the controlling contractor because, as the contractor with general supervisory authority over the worksite, it is in the best position to comply with them. None of these provisions require the controlling contractor to direct the individual employees of a subcontractor or supplier.

More generally, Mr. Meyer expressed concern with OSHA's multi-employer citation policy, which holds controlling contractors responsible for violations they can abate through their supervisory authority over other contractors on the site.

OSHA's multi-employer citation policy is explained in detail in Compliance Directive CPL 2-0.124. Current policy makes clear that the primary responsibility for the safety of construction employees rests with an employee's employer. With respect to the general contractor, however, the policy recognizes an overall responsibility to ensure by the exercise of reasonable oversight that the site is free of hazards. This is but one of the general work site responsibilities of a general contractor. The policy states that:

The extent of the measures that a controlling employer must implement to satisfy this duty of reasonable care is less than what is required of an employer with respect to protecting its own employees. This means that the controlling employer is not normally required to inspect for hazards as frequently or to have the same level of knowledge of the applicable standards or of trade expertise as the employer it has hired.

Prudent employers operating on multi-employer work sites must be aware of their responsibilities as they relate to occupational safety and health. In addition, after January 18, 2002, employers on steel erection projects must look to the language of the new Subpart R to determine whether the controlling contractor requirements apply to them and their role.

We hope this clarifies the controlling contractor's responsibilities on steel erection projects. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact [OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance].


John L. Henshaw
Assistant Secretary