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 19, 2005

Mr. Thomas C. Tremblay
Guardair Corporation
54 Second Street
Chicopee, MA 01020

Re: What OSHA construction standards govern the use of pneumatic hand tools used in construction for cleaning concrete forms, bridge decks, and roads?

Dear Mr. Tremblay:

This is in response to your letter dated September 17, 2004, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your questions are in regard to the construction standards that would be applicable to a pneumatic power tool that your corporation intends to market for use in the construction industry. You submitted written product information and elaborated upon your request in a subsequent conversation with our staff.

We have paraphrased your question as follows:

Question: Our corporation manufactures various pneumatic tools. Recently, we developed a prototype pneumatic hand tool for cleaning concrete forms, bridge decks and roads. Three of the features that the prototype has are a dead-man trigger, a capability to reduce pressure to 30 p.s.i., and "aluminum construction [that] provides inherent spark resistance."

What provisions of the construction standards would likely affect the design of a pneumatic hand tool used for these cleaning applications?

Answer: OSHA is generally precluded from approving or endorsing specific products. The variable working conditions at job sites and possible alteration or misapplication of an otherwise safe piece of equipment could easily create a hazardous condition beyond the control of the equipment manufacturer. However, where appropriate, we try to give some guidance to help employers assess whether products are appropriate to use in light of OSHA requirements.

Title 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart I (Tools — Hand and Power) of the construction standards contains provisions applicable to the pneumatic cleaning hand tool that you describe that would affect the design of the tool. Some of those provisions, from the most specific to the more general, are highlighted below.

Section 1926.302(b), Pneumatic power tools, provides in part:

(1) Pneumatic power tools shall be secured to the hose or whip by some positive means to prevent the tool from becoming accidentally disconnected.
* * *
(4) Compressed air shall not be used for cleaning purposes except where reduced to less than 30 p.s.i. and then only with effective chip guarding and personal protective equipment which meets the requirements of subpart E of this part. The 30 p.s.i. requirement does not apply for concrete form, mill scale and similar cleaning purposes.
(5) The manufacturer's safe operating pressure for hoses, pipes, valves, filters, and other fittings shall not be exceeded.
* * *
(7) All hoses exceeding ½-inch inside diameter shall have a safety device at the source of supply or branch line to reduce pressure in case of hose failure.
* * *

General requirements are set forth in §1926.300. Among other issues, those provisions address:

(a) Condition of tools. All hand and power tools and similar equipment, whether furnished by the employer or the employee, shall be maintained in a safe condition.

Additional provisions of general applicability are also set forth in §1926.301, Hand tools.

We note that you did not mention a chip guard; such a guard is required under §1926.302(b)(4).1

We emphasize that the above list of provisions is not a comprehensive list of OSHA construction standards that may apply to the use of your hand tool. As you know, when tools are used in construction applications, they must comply with all applicable 29 CFR Part 1926 requirements. Keep in mind that the applicability of OSHA construction standards is often keyed to a particular activity rather than simply to a type of equipment.

With regard to your mention of spark-resistance, if you intend the tool to be used where there is a potential explosion or fire hazard, your tool will have to meet the applicable requirements in Subpart F — Fire Protection and Prevention. See, for example, §1926.151(a)(5) (bonding device requirements for air nozzles in certain situations); and §1926.152(i)(6) (Sources of ignition). Also, in situations where the industry recognizes sparking as an explosion or fire hazard, suitable precautions addressing that hazard would be required under section 5(a)(1) (the "general duty clause") of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

You indicate that your prototype, designed for use as a compressed air cleaner of concrete forms, decks and roads, is equipped with a dead-man trigger. Section 1926.302(b), Pneumatic power tools, does not include an applicable provision relating to dead-man triggers for the tool you describe.

Your questions regarding requirements under the Maritime (Part 1917) and Shipyard (Part 1915) Industry standards will be addressed by OSHA's Office of Maritime Enforcement.

If you need any 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 The 30 p.s.i. limitation does not apply to pneumatic power tools used for cleaning concrete form and similar cleaning purposes. However, even when used for cleaning concrete form and similar cleaning purposes, a chip guard is required. [ back to text ]