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.

March 22, 2005

Mr. John P. Masarick
Manager Codes, Standards & Safety
Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc.
4401 Ford Avenue
Suite 1100
Alexandria, VA 22302

Re: Whether the requirements of §1926.404(b)(1) apply to 208-volt branch circuits; whether an electrical subcontractor is required under §1926.404(b)(1) to provide ground-fault circuit interrupters on circuits used by other subcontractors

Dear Mr. Masarick:

This is in response to your letter dated October 25, 2004, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. You ask about the nature of the requirements under §1926.404(b)(1).

We have paraphrased your questions as follows:

Question 1: At my construction site, I use 3-phase 30-ampere 208-V circuits. Do the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.404(b)(1) apply to those circuits?

Answer: Please see our answer to Question 1 of our
February 7, 2005, letter to Mr. Scarpello (copy attached).

Question 2: Scenario: The general contractor for a construction site brings in an electrical subcontractor (Sub E) to install temporary electrical power for the use of other subcontractors. That contract does not specifically require Sub E to install ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), nor does it specifically require that Sub E establish assured equipment grounding programs. Once the temporary electric power is installed, Sub E does not use it. Does §1926.404(b)(1) require Sub E to provide and install GFCIs on all the circuits for the benefit of the other subcontractors?

Answer: Section 1926.404(b)(1)(i) provides:

Branch circuits -- (1) Ground-fault protection -- (i) General. The employer shall use either ground fault circuit interrupters as specified in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section or an assured equipment grounding conductor program ["AEGCP"] as specified in paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section to protect employees on construction sites. These requirements are in addition to any other requirements for equipment conductors. [Emphasis added.]

Therefore, under paragraph (b)(1)(i), the employer is required to provide ground fault protection -- either by the use of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) or by the use of an assured equipment grounding conductor program.

The Preamble to Subpart K "Electrical,"
1 includes a discussion of why individual employers might choose a particular option to satisfy their obligation under this standard:

* * * ...an employer may choose one method of protection or the other on the basis of several factors. The individual employer may choose on the basis of cost; if his local jurisdiction already requires GFCI's, he may choose GFCI's; if he is one employer of many on a construction site, the availability of alternatives gives him flexibility to coordinate compliance.

This discussion reflects an intent that the term "employer" as used in §1926.404(b)(1), when applied in the context of a construction site with multiple employers, includes each individual employer/subcontractor.2 The Agency did not intend to require that one electrical subcontractor provide one manner of protection to each and every one of the user/subcontractors. Rather, with respect to each employer/subcontractor on the site that has exposed employees, each would be obligated to ensure that one of the options in §1926.404(b)(1) is in "use."

Therefore, in this scenario §1926.404(b)(1)(i) does not require Sub E to provide and install GFCIs or establish assured equipment grounding programs for the benefit of the other subcontractors that will be using the circuits.

Where an electrical subcontractor's contract with the general contractor does not specify that it is to install GFCI protection in this type of scenario, we strongly recommend that the general contractor inform the employers that will be using the electrical circuits that GFCI protection has not been installed and to remind those employers of their responsibilities under §1926.404(b)(1).

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 Volume 41 of the Federal Register, page 55696. [ back to text ]

2 In this question and answer, we do not address the obligations of a controlling employer under OSHA's multi-employer worksite policy, [CPL 02-00-124 (formerly CPL 2-0.124)], with respect to §1926.404(b). [ back to text ]