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.

May 30, 2012

Mr. Thomas E. Enger
Clemco Industries Corp.
One Cable Car Drive
Washington, MO 63090

Dear Mr. Enger:

Thank you for your letter, dated December 22, 2011, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed in your correspondence and the subsequent email and telephone communications and may not be applicable to any question not delineated by that communication.

Your paraphrased scenario, question, and our replies follow:

Scenario: Clemco Industries sells abrasive blast cleaning nozzles that are covered under OSHA 29 CFR Part 1910 and 29 CFR Part 1926.

You stated that a European version of this valve operator is fitted with a hold-open, "ball and chain" device, whereby the ball is pushed into place to mechanically hold (block) the valve in the open position. A short chain, which is attached to the ball, is wrapped around the operator's wrist. If the employee releases his or her hold, the ball easily pulls free, causing the valve to close. Further, you stated that Clemco manufactures a modified version of its standard operating valve for use and distribution in the European market, which is fitted with a washer-and-chain and works similar to the ball-and-chain feature described above. Moreover, these self-releasing, ball-and-chain and washer-and-chain solutions may discourage the use of zip ties or a Velcro straps, and allow operators to remove their hands from the operating valve during blasting operations without shutting off the flow of the compressed air media.

Question: Does the version of the valve with the ball-and-chain feature meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.244(b) and 29 CFR 1926.302(b)(10)?

Response: No. According to these provisions, the operating valve must be held open manually.

However, where an employer (or class or group of employers1 ) desires to deviate from the requirements of an OSHA standard (for example, to discourage unsafe work practices, such as using strapping material to override the safety feature of a tool), the employer may request a permanent variance for specific workplaces. A variance is a program that permits an employer to deviate from the requirements of an OSHA standard if the proposed alternatives for worker protection are as effective in providing worker protection as the standards from which the employer is seeking a variance. Additional requirements associated with the variance process include:

  • OSHA does not approve or endorse any commercial products or commercial designs.
  • OSHA grants variances only to specific, individual employers and not to workplaces, not to commercially manufactured products. Variances are not exemptions from a standard, and employers cannot use the variance process to obtain an exemption from a standard. Variances allow an employer to deviate from an OSHA standard under specific conditions.

For more information about how to apply for a variance, please visit our site: http://www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/variances/apply.html.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. This letter is intended to provide information about the standards relating to the equipment you identified. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. However, this letter is not itself a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. In addition, 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. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry and Agricultural Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.


Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

1  A class or group of employers (such as members of a trade alliance or association) may apply jointly for a variance provided an authorized representative for each employer signs the application and the application identifies each employer's affected facilities.   [Return to Text]