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.

September 28, 2006

Mr. Bill Principe
Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLC
Suite 2400
230 Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

Re: Lockout and tagging of circuits; §1926.417

Dear Mr. Principe:

This is in response to the inquiry you faxed to our office on October 31, 2005. You asked whether an employer engaged in construction work is required to lock equipment or circuits which have been deactivated. You also inquired about the status of a variance discussed in an OSHA interpretation letter dated October 3, 1986, addressed to Mr. Yohay. We apologize for the long delay in responding.

We have paraphrased your questions as follows:

Question (1): Does 29 CFR 1926.417, "Lockout and tagging of circuits," require the use of a lock on deenergized circuits?

Answer: Title 29 CFR 1926 Subpart K addresses electrical safety requirements in construction work. Section 1926.417 ("Lockout and tagging of circuits") states:

(a) Controls. Controls that are to be deactivated during the course of work on energized or deenergized equipment or circuits shall be tagged.

(b) Equipment and circuits. Equipment or circuits that are deenergized shall be rendered inoperative and shall have tags attached at all points where such equipment or circuits can be energized. [Emphasis added].

In promulgating this section, the Agency used the phrase "rendered inoperative," rather than "locked out." This indicates that methods other than lock-out would be permissible1 , as long as they rendered the equipment or deenergized circuit inoperative. There are a variety of such methods; two examples are:

(1) Removing a fuse or other circuit element for each phase conductor; or

(2) Disconnecting the circuit conductors (including disabling plugs for equipment that is plug-connected).

Question (2): What is the status of the variance discussed in the Yohay letter, dated October 3, 1986?

Answer: The October 3, 1986 letter to Mr. Yohay invited Edison Electric Institute (EEI) to apply for a variance. At this time, there is no variance in effect for the Edison Electric Institute. A list of variances currently in effect may be found on OSHA's public website:

If you need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Compliance Assistance, 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 OSHA has previously indicated that positive lockout is not the only means of complying with §1926.417 (memorandum from Mr. Leo Carey to the Regional Administrators dated February 20, 1987; October 3, 1986 letter to Mr. Steven Yohay). [ back to text ]