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.

May 28, 2004

Mr. J. Ferriss Foster
P.O. Box 180460
J.A. Moss Construction Company
Richland, MS 39216

Re: Use of tennis shoes on steep roofs; §1926.501(b)(11); OSHAct Sec. 5(a)(1) [General Duty Clause]

Dear Mr. Foster:

This is in response to a December 2, 2003, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You ask about footwear worn while working on a roof. Your letter was forwarded to this office for handling on January 16, 2004. We apologize for the delay in responding.

We have paraphrased your question as follows:

Question: Scenario: Workers are installing sheet metal as a weatherproofing material on a pre-existing, steep-pitch roof deck.
1 Is there an OSHA requirement that these workers wear tennis shoes in order to prevent such workers from slipping while installing the metal sheeting? Is there a prohibition against using tennis shoes in this scenario?

In 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart M (Fall Protection), §1926.500(b) defines a steep roof as:

* * * a roof having a slope greater than 4 in 12 (vertical to horizontal).

Section 1926.501(b)(11), Steep roofs, states:

Each employee on a steep roof with unprotected sides and edges 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems with toeboards, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.



Therefore, workers in the scenario above must be protected from falling by one of these fall protection methods. There is no additional requirement in the standard regarding any specific types of footwear that must be used. Therefore, the use of tennis shoes is not required.

There also is no prohibition in the standard against the use of tennis shoes in this circumstance. We note also that in view of the wide variety of sheet metal surfaces and variety of types and condition of "tennis shoe" material, we cannot comment on the extent to which such shoes would add or detract from a worker's chance of slipping on metal sheeting. Similarly, because of the wide variety and condition of material used for boots (both for the soles and for the rest of the boot), which have varying characteristics for both flexibility and degree of slip resistance, we cannot comment on whether the use of boots in this situation would be more or less of a problem than tennis shoes.

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



1 For purposes of this letter, we assume that the activities in the scenario in question are not covered by the steel erection standard and that the workers are not subject to hazards that would require safety-toe footwear as required by §1926.96. [ back to text ]