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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 https://www.osha.gov.
Letter # 20070904-7942
Re: Whether electric hand tools disassembled and deemed irreparable by a tool repair service are required to be returned disassembled.
Question: Our company sells electric power tools and provides a repair service by outsourcing repairs to another company. In order to asses the tool's condition, the tool repair company often must disassemble the tool. When they determine that a tool is not repairable, the company returns it to us disassembled; they have told us that this is required under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).
Is there an OSHA construction standard that requires power tool repair professionals to return power tools disassembled if they are found to be beyond repair?
Answer: Neither 29 CFR 1926 Subpart I (Tools – Hand and Power) nor 29 CFR 1926 Subpart K (Electrical) contain provisions stating that damaged power tools that have been disassembled must not be reassembled. However, certain provisions within these standards are relevant to your question.
In Subpart I (Tools – Hand and Power), 1926.302 states:
(a) Electric power-operated tools.
(1) Electric power operated tools shall either be of the approved double-insulated type or grounded in accordance with subpart K of this part.
[Italics in original]
Additionally, in Subpart K (Electrical), 1926.403 provides:
(a) Approval. All electrical conductors and equipment shall be approved.
[Italics in original]
Section 1926.449 defines "approved" as "acceptable." For the purposes of your question, 1926.449 provides that equipment is "acceptable" if it is, "accepted, or certified, or listed, or labeled, or otherwise determined to be safe by a qualified testing laboratory. . ."
Hand electric power tools, such as double-insulated electric power-operated tools, are approved as complete factory-produced units. In order to meet the provisions quoted above, the repair of an electrical power tool must restore the tool to its "approved" condition. Thus, these provisions prohibit an employer engaged in construction from using damaged electric power-operated tools unless repaired and restored to an "approved" condition.
Furthermore, in Subpart C (General Safety and Health Provisions), 1926.20(b)(3) provides a general prohibition against the use of equipment that does not meet an OSHA standard:
(3) The use of any machinery, tool, material, or equipment which is not in compliance with any applicable requirement of this part is prohibited.
* * *
As previously discussed, a repaired electrical power tool that is not restored to its "approved" condition is not in compliance with 1926.302 and 1926.403. Consequently, the use of such a tool would violate 1926.20(b)(3).
In sum, there is no OSHA construction standard that specifically prohibits the reassembly of a defective electric power tool. However, the repair company you refer to may be concerned that reassembling the tool could result in a construction employer putting it back into service in an unrepaired condition, which the standards referenced above would prohibit.
Richard Fairfax, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction