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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.
February 25, 2013
Mr. Robert N. Aguiluz, Esq.
7077 Exchequer Drive
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70809-4904
Dear Mr. Aguiluz:
Thank you for your July 12, 2011, letter regarding a letter of interpretation dated March 9, 2011, to Mr. Michael Moore on the use of retrieval lines under OSHA’s Permit-Required Confined Space standard, 29 CFR 1910.146 and for the permit-required confined space rescue demonstration that Roco Rescue conducted for OSHA staff in Baltimore, Maryland on July 26, 2012. In your letter, you ask the Agency to “reconsider or clarify OSHA’s position.”
Mr. Moore’s first question addresses OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.146(k)(3)(i), as it applies to both authorized entrants and rescuers. In our response, we state that each authorized entrant into a permit-required confined space (PRCS) shall use a chest or full body harness with their own individual retrieval line or lifeline. As noted in your letter, this requirement applies only to the authorized entrant and not to the rescuer. This particular interpretation of our letter is correct and the Agency did not intend for this requirement to apply to the rescuer entering a PRCS space during rescue operations.
In addition, you were concerned that requiring each authorized entrant to have their own individual retrieval or life line conflicts with the performance nature of the Permit-Required Confined Space standard. Further, you describe, “systems that can be employed where entrants are attached sequentially to a single line in a manner that allows them to be retrieved one-by-one. Each individual is on a retrieval line, as required by 1910.146(k)(3). But each does not have a separate retrieval line.” The retrieval system that you describe in your letter and demonstrated to OSHA staff on July 26, 2012, would be in compliance with 29 CFR 1910.146(k)(3)(ii)1 , as long as the entrants who are attached sequentially to the single retrieval line can be removed from the PRCS individually and the arrangement does not impede the removal of the entrants. Please note that OSHA does not certify the safety of products, nor does the Agency endorse products or approve any safety products.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA’s requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
1 1910.146(k)(3)(ii) The other end of the retrieval line shall be attached to a mechanical device or fixed point outside the permit space in such a manner that rescue can begin as soon as the rescuer becomes aware that rescue is necessary. A mechanical device shall be available to retrieve personnel from vertical type permit spaces more than 5 feet (1.52 m) deep