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.

May 9, 2006

Mr. Mark Troxell
Director of Safety Services
The Graham Company
The Graham Building
One Penn Square West
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Re: Whether the operator's cab of excavators must be equipped with seatbelts; §1926.602(a) and 1926.602(b)

Dear Mr. Troxell:

This is in response to a question that you posed to Mr. John McFee of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Region III. Mr. McFee forwarded your question to this office for handling on April 7, 2005. We apologize for the long delay in providing this response.

We have paraphrased your question as follows:

Question: I am a contractor working on a construction job site where there are excavators in use. I have noticed that the operator's cabs on these excavators are not equipped with seat belts.

I located an OSHA interpretation letter dated September 25, 1995, to Mr. Michael J. Frenzel that indicates that excavators need not be equipped with seatbelts. Do OSHA standards require that excavators be equipped with seat belts?

Answer: Section 1926.602(a) covers "earthmoving equipment" and provides:

(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. * * * [Emphasis added.]
(2) Seat belts. (i) Seat belts shall be provided on all equipment covered by this section . . . .

Section 1926.602(b) applies to "excavating and other equipment." This provision states:

(1) Tractors covered in paragraph (a) of this section shall have seat belts as required for the operators when seated in the normal seating arrangement for tractor operation, even though backhoes, breakers, or similar attachments are used on these machines for excavating or other work.
* * *
(3) The safety requirements . . . applicable to machines or attachment usage covered in Power Crane and Shovel Associations Standards No. 1 and No. 2 of 1968, and No. 3 of 1969 shall be complied with, and shall apply to cranes, machines, and attachments under this part. [Emphasis added.]

As indicated in §1926.602(b), the safety requirements that apply to excavating equipment are contained in the Power Crane and Shovel Association ("PCSA") Standards Nos. 1, 2, and 3. Those standards only cover equipment with revolving superstructures and do not contain a seat belt installation requirement.

By their terms, the above provisions do not require the installation of seat belts in excavators. Section 1926.602(a), which contains an explicit requirement for seat belts, only applies to the listed machinery and "similar equipment." Excavators are not included in the explicit list, and, as explained below, they are also not included as "similar equipment."

First, it is significant that a separate paragraph, §1926.602(b), entitled "Excavating and other equipment" was included under §1926.602. If the intent was to cover excavating equipment as "similar equipment" under the preceding paragraph (a), then paragraph (b) would be expected to contain only additional, excavator-specific, requirements. That is not the case — some of the requirements in paragraph (b) are also in paragraph (a).
1 This indicates that the only requirements in §1926.602 applicable to excavating equipment are those listed in paragraph (b).

Second, paragraph (b) states that tractors, when used with certain attachments, must be equipped with seatbelts "even though" they are used "for excavating work . . . ." That indicates a recognition that excavators are not required to have seat belts — which would only be the case if paragraph (a) was inapplicable to excavators.

Finally, the incorporation by reference in paragraph (b) of certain requirements in PCSA Standards Nos. 1, 2, and 3 indicates that excavators are not "similar equipment." The "Scope" and "Basic Components" sections of each of these three industry consensus standards limit their application to machines with revolving superstructures. As far as we are aware, at the time of the adoption of §1926.602, none of the machines listed in paragraph (a) were constructed with revolving superstructures. In contrast, excavators were typically constructed with revolving superstructures.
2 That is further evidence of this Agency's intent to exclude excavators from being considered "similar equipment." Therefore, excavators are not subject to the seatbelt requirement in paragraph (a).

In sum, for the reasons stated above, excavators are covered by §1926.602(b) rather than by §1926.602(a). Because there are no seat belt requirements in paragraph (b), as OSHA stated in the September 25, 1995, Frenzel letter, "[t]he Operator's compartments on rotating housings of excavating . . . equipment are not required to be equipped with seat belts...."

If you need any further clarification on this subject, 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, NW, Washington, DC 20210, although there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.

Sincerely,



Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction

 

 


1 For example, both paragraphs address brakes (§1926.602(b) addresses brakes through incorporation by reference of the safety requirements in the PSCA standards). [ back to text ]

 

 

 

 


2 The 1999 SAE standard on Earthmoving Machinery — Basic Types — Vocabulary — J/ISO — 6165, in its definition of "excavator," indicates that this continues to be the case:

 

 

Self-propelled machine on crawler, wheels, or legs, having an upper structure normally capable of a 360 degree swing with mounted equipment, primarily designed for excavating with a bucket, without moving the undercarriage during the work cycle. [Emphasis added.] [ back to text ]