- Standard Number:
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.
June 24, 2002
Robert Trinkl, Corporate Safety Manager
Harley-Davidson Motor Company
3700 West Juneau Avenue
P.O. Box 653
Milwaukee, WI 53201
Dear Mr. Trinkl:
Thank you for your October 4 letter to Richard Fairfax, Director of 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 not delineated within your original correspondence. Your question is restated below, followed by our response.
Question: Can we use personal protective equipment (air-supplied hoods) to protect our employees from exposures in excess of OSHA PELs and/or toxic contaminants while working in recirculated air paint spray booths that meet the requirements stated in NFPA 33-2000?
Reply: Employers must use engineering or administrative controls to bring employee exposure to airborne contaminants within the levels permitted under 29 CFR 1910.1000. You may use personal protective equipment (PPE) to supplement engineering and administrative controls only when these controls cannot be feasibly implemented to reduce employee exposure to permissible levels. Thus, when it is not feasible to achieve compliance through administrative or engineering controls, you must also use PPE or other protective measures to prevent employee exposure to air contaminants from exceeding the prescribed limits.
Any personal protective equipment must be approved for the particular use by a qualified person. Also, whenever respirators are used, employers must comply with the provisions of 29 CFR 1910.134.
In your letter, you referenced the provisions of NFPA 33-2000, subsection 5.5, and implied that, by complying with these provisions, an employer can protect employees from exposure to unhealthy concentrations of air contaminants. In our first letter to you, (September 17, 2001) we addressed your question regarding compliance with NFPA 33-2000 instead of the spray finishing ventilation requirements of 29 CFR 1910.107(d)(9).
As we explained, both 1910.107(d)(9) and NFPA 33-2000, subsection 5.5 are designed to prevent fire and explosion hazards during spray finishing operations, not to protect employees from air contaminant exposures. As you may know, the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act requires that employers limit employee exposure to air contaminants in accordance with the provisions of 29 CFR 1910.1000.
Your July 11, 2001 letter to Ann Williams, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Assistant Regional Administrator for Region V, also proposes the use of recirculated air (80% recirculated air and 20% fresh air) to protect employees in a spray booth from air contaminants. While it is questionable whether this method can reliably maintain employee air contaminant exposures at or below acceptable levels, 29 CFR 1910.1000 is a performance-based standard; it does not specify the engineering or administrative controls that an employer must implement to prevent exposures to unhealthy concentrations of air contaminants. For further assistance in this area, you may want to contact the nearest OSHA Area Office.
U.S. Department of Labor - OSHA
Henry S. Reuss Building
310 W. Wisconsin Ave, Suite 1180
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: (414) 297-3315
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope 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 http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of General Industry Enforcement] at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs
cc: Regional Administrator, Region 5