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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 http://www.osha.gov.
June 12, 2006
Mr. John Schlack
648 Hemlock Court
Bensalem, PA 19020-4301
Re: Operations that trigger the requirement for employers to provide washing facilities on construction jobsites under 29 CFR 1926.51(f)(1).
Dear Mr. Schlack:
This is in response to your letter dated September 25, 2005, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.51(f)(1). We apologize for the delay in responding.
We have paraphrased your questions as follows:
Question: Section 29 CFR 1926.51(f)(1) requires that "employers provide adequate washing facilities for employees engaged in the application of paints, coating, herbicides, insecticides, or in other operations where contaminants may be harmful to employees." We are an employer performing electrical construction work. Part of this work involves contact with: a corrosion preventative that coats Rigid, I.M.C. and E.M.T. conduit as well as AC and MC flexible metal covered cable; cutting oil used to thread and prepare the conduit; conductivity enhancing compound; glue used for connecting PVC conduit; and a compound used for "fire-stopping." Each of these cause eye and skin irritation, and the glue is also combustible, corrosive and poisonous. None of these materials are readily or adequately removed with waterless hand cleaner.
When doing this work, do the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.51(f)(1) apply?
Answer: Section 1926.51(f)(1) states:
(f) Washing facilities. (1) The employer shall provide adequate washing facilities for employees engaged in the application of paints, coating, herbicides, or insecticides, or in other operations where contaminants may be harmful to employees. Such facilities shall be in near proximity to the worksite and shall be so equipped as to enable employees to remove such substances. (Emphasis added.)
In your letter, you describe employees performing several electrical construction activities where employees come in contact with various materials.1
A plain language reading of §1926.51(f)(1) and specifically, the "in other operations" clause emphasized above, indicates that OSHA intended to require employers to provide washing facilities when performing a broad range of activities beyond just "the application of paints, coating, herbicides, or insecticides."
Therefore, whether the activities you describe in your letter are within the scope of §1926.51(f)(1)'s requirement for employers to provide washing facilities depends upon whether those activities involve the use of "contaminants [which] may be harmful to employees." If the materials you describe are in fact harmful, the employer would be required to provide adequate washing facilities, including soap and potable water.2
Note that a good source of information regarding a hazardous chemical is its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). An employer's obligations to make the MSDS for a hazardous chemical available to employees are described in 29 CFR 1926.1200, which is applicable to construction employers by §1926.59 (Hazard Communication). These standards can be viewed on OSHA's website at: http://www.osha.gov. (under "Laws and Regulations in the right hand column, click "Standards").
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.
Noah Connell, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction
1 We have not asdcertained whether the materials you describe in your letter are in fact harmful to emplyees. [ back to text ]
2 See OSHA's July 20, 2005 lettr to Mr. James W. Banford, Jr. for further information regarding the Agency's interpretation of what constitutes adequate washing facilites under §1926.51(f)(1). [ back to text ]