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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.268; 1910.268(a); 1910; 1910.5(c); 1910.268(a)(3); 1910.268(g)(1); 1910.268(n)(7); 1910.268(n)(8)

September 24, 2004

Mr. Peter A. Susser
Littler Mendelson®
1225 I Street N.W., Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Mr. Susser:

Thank you for your letter dated February 5, 2004, requesting clarification regarding the application of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) standard 29 CFR 1910.268, Telecommunications, to one of your firm's telecommunication clients having a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code 4812. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed, and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. We apologize for the delay in our response. Your paraphrased scenarios, questions we formulated based on your scenarios, and our responses are provided below:

Scenario: Like many employers in SIC 4812, one of our clients, a company, maintains a number of telecommunications-industry specific operations, such as switching centers that clearly fall within the scope of OSHA's Telecommunication standard, 29 CFR 1910.268 ("the Standard"). At the same time, this company also maintains a variety of locations and operations such as retail stores that sell its telephone equipment and service plans to the public and operates a number of customer call centers. It also maintains warehouses in which its products are stored and from which they are distributed around the country, as well as administrative offices in a number of locations. The exposure to potential workplace safety and health hazards of employees in these retail, call center, warehouse, and administrative operations are not unique or specific to the hazards at telecommunications centers and telecommunications field operations. Rather, they match up similarly to the work and environment of individuals employed in other commercial sectors who also work in retail, call center, warehouse or office operations. The language in §1910.268(a), the "application" subsection of the standard, limits its scope to "work conditions, practices, means, methods, operations, installations and processes performed at telecommunications centers and at telecommunications field operations."

Question 1: Do retail, call center, warehouse, and administrative locations described above fall within the scope of the Standard?

Response: No. In accordance with 29 CFR 1910.268(a), the standard applies to the work conditions, practices, means, methods, operations, installations, and processes performed at "telecommunications centers" and at telecommunications "field installations," which are located outdoors or in building spaces used for such field installations.

"Telecommunication centers" are facilities established, equipped, and arranged in accordance with engineered plans for the purposes of telecommunications service.
1 These centers include switch rooms (whether electromechanical, electronic, or computer controlled), terminal rooms, power rooms, repeater rooms, transmitter and receiver rooms, switchboard operating rooms, cable vaults, and miscellaneous communications equipment rooms. Simulation rooms of telecommunication centers for training or developmental purposes are also included.

"Field installations" involve field work consisting of "the installation, operation, maintenance, rearrangement, and removal of conductors and other equipment used for signal or communication service, and their supporting or containing structures, overhead or underground, on public or private rights of way, including buildings or other structures."

Additionally, the telecommunication standard explicitly provides for the application of a generic standard in 29 CFR 1910.268(a)(3), Application, which states "[o]perations or conditions not specifically covered by this section are subject to all the applicable standards contained in this part 1910. See 1910.5(c)." Therefore, the hazards associated with operations involving retail, call center, warehouse and administrative locations described above would be covered under the other applicable standards contained in 1910, or in the absence of such standards -- under Section 5(a)(1) -- "the general duty clause" of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which requires employers to protect employees from serious recognized hazards.

Scenario: §1910.268(g)(1) provides, in general, that: "Safety belts and straps shall be provided and the employer shall ensure their use when work is performed in positions more than 4 feet above ground, on poles, and on towers, except as provided in paragraphs 1910.268(n)(7) and 1910.268(n)(8) of this section." While these requirements obviously apply to telecommunications center work and field work, it appears that the general business facilities described above would not be required to use fall protection specific to the Standard's requirements when work is performed more than 4 feet off the ground. Rather, the "application" portion of the Standard suggests that the same requirement contained in OSHA's General Industry standards applies to employees in other types of retail stores, call centers, warehouses and office locations.

Question 2: Does the 1910.268(g)(1) standard apply to employees working in general business facilities such as retail stores, call centers, warehouses, and office locations?

Response: No. See above response.

Scenario : In retail, call center, warehouse, and office locations, employees utilize a standard platform, hydraulic scissor lift that is equipped with a standard railing around the platform (in accordance with applicable American National Standards Institute [ANSI] standards and the manufacturer's recommendations).

Question 3: Is the occupant of a scissor lift equipped with standard guardrail system required to wear fall protection?

Response: No. OSHA does not have standards specific to scissor lifts. In situations, where OSHA does not have standards, industry consensus standards, such as standards published by ANSI would be taken into consideration by OSHA in applying "the general duty clause."

With respect to the use and operation of scissor lifts, ANSI/SIA
2 A92.3, American National Standard for Manually Propelled Elevating Aerial Platforms, or ANSI/SIA A92.6, American National Standard for Self-Propelled Elevating Work Platforms, would be the appropriate industry consensus standard and may serve as evidence of industry recognition of a hazard. However, the ANSI/SIA A92.6 standard does not have provisions requiring employees on the elevated platforms (equipped with standard guardrail system) of the scissor lifts to wear personal fall protection systems.

In the absence of a specific OSHA or national consensus standard requirement for employees to wear personal fall protection systems, employers are not generally expected to provide such equipment for employees working from a scissor lift equipped with a standard guardrail system. However, in particular circumstances, an employer might have actual or constructive knowledge of a fall hazard that a guardrail system will not fully abate. For example, the lift manufacturer might specify the use of a personal fall protection system during particular operations, or the employer might have experienced a fall accident using the lift in a certain manner. In such cases, failure to supplement the guardrail system with a personal fall protection system might rise to the level of a general duty clause violation.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. 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. If you have anyfurther questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

1 Telecommunication Service in the 1910.268 standard is defined to be "The furnishing of a capability to signal or communicate at a distance by means such as telephone, telegraph, police and firealarm, community antenna television, or similar system using wire, guides, microwave transmission, or other similar means."
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2 Scaffold Industry Association, Inc. [ back to text ]

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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