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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.
December 15, 2003
Mr. Joel Roth
17210 Robert St.
Southfield, MI 48075
Re: Earthmoving equipment, use of seat belts; §1926.602(a)(2)
Dear Mr. Roth:
Thank you for your memorandum dated October 9, 2003, regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction standard for earthmoving equipment, 29 CFR 1926.602. You suggest that §1926.602(a)(2)(i) be modified to indicate that seat belts should be used. We have paraphrased the issue you raise as follows.
Question: Paragraph (a)(2)(i) of 1926.602 addresses seat belts for earthmoving equipment. That standard requires that seat belts be provided; are such belts required to be used?
Title 29 CFR 1926.28(a) ("Personal Protective Equipment") states that:
The employer is responsible for requiring the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment in all operations where there is an exposure to hazardous conditions or where this part indicates the need for using such equipment to reduce the hazards to the employees.
Title 29 CFR 1926.602 (Material handling equipment) states in part:
(a) Earthmoving equipment; General. (1) These rules apply to the following types of earthmoving equipment: scrapers, loaders, crawler or wheel tractors, bulldozers, off-highway trucks, graders, agricultural and industrial tractors, and similar equipment. The promulgation of specific rules for compactors and rubber-tired "skid-steer" equipment is reserved pending consideration of standards currently being developed.
(2) Seat belts. (i) Seat belts shall be provided on all equipment covered by this section and shall meet the requirements of the Society of Automotive Engineers, J386-1969, Seat Belts for Construction Equipment. Seat belts for agricultural and light industrial tractors shall meet the seat belt requirements of Society of Automotive Engineers J333a-1970, Operator Protection for Agricultural and Light Industrial Tractors.
(ii) Seat belts need not be provided for equipment which is designed only for standup operation.
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As you noted, §1926.602(a)(2)(i) does not specifically state that seat belts must be used. However, 29 CFR 1926.28(a) creates a requirement to use personal protective equipment where there is both exposure to a hazardous condition and another provision in Part 1926 indicates the need for using personal protective equipment. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has held that §1926.602(a)(1) is a provision that indicates the need for seat belts within the terms of §1926.28(a) (Sweetman Constr. Co. (No.3750, 1976)). If, therefore, employees operating earthmoving equipment are exposed to hazards that can be lessened by the wearing of seat belts (which typically is the case), failure to use seat belts would be citable under §1926.28(a).
If you need additional information, please contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and 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