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 20, 2002
Tod A. Phillips, Esquire
Spain & Hastings
3900 Two Houston Center
909 Fannin Street
Houston, TX 77010
Dear Mr. Phillips:
This responds to your November 26, 2001 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and subsequent phone conversation with members of my staff. You seek clarification regarding how OSHA's directives and letters of interpretation affect the regulations or standards. We apologize for the delay in addressing your concerns.
The issue of how directives and interpretation letters affect OSHA's regulations and standards is a legal question, which is beyond the purview of this office to answer. What we can do is address why the Agency issues directives and interpretation letters.
OSHA issues directives to assure the agency's policies, procedures, and instructions concerning agency operations are communicated effectively and timely to its personnel and other affected parties (OSHA Directive ADM 8-0.3, Chapter 5, Definitions, "Directives System").
A letter of interpretation "provides supplementary guidance that clarifies how to apply to a specific workplace situation a policy or procedure disseminated through the Code of Federal Regulations or the OSHA directive system. [Interpretation letters] may not interpret the OSHAct, or establish or expand OSHA policy. [Interpretation letters] may answer questions posed by OSHA, employers, employees, or other parties." (ADM 8-0.3, Chapter 5, Definitions, "Letter of Interpretation").
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. The letters constitute OSHA's interpretation of the current requirements; however, 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, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
If you need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Directorate of Construction, [Office of Construction Standards and Compliance Guidance], fax # 202-693-1689. You can also contact us by mail at the above office, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, although there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.
Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction