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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1926.651(i)(1)

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.

January 10, 2006

Mr. James McRay,
Mid Eastern Builders
4016 Holland Blvd.
P.O. Box 6748
Chesapeake, VA 23323

Re: 29 CFR 1926.651(i)(1); excavation operations.

Dear Mr. McRay:

This is in response to your letter dated February 15, 2005, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding activities that are considered to be "excavation operations" under the construction standards for excavation. We apologize for the long delay in responding.

We have paraphrased your question as follows:

Question: In OSHA's construction standards, there are references to "excavation operations" in §1926.651 (b)(3) and (i)(1), regarding underground installations and the stability of adjacent structures during excavation work. Subpart P defines the term "excavation", but not "excavation operations". Are there specific excavation activities or additional elements that OSHA considers to be included in excavation operations?


In 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart P, §1926.650(b) defines the term "excavation" as follows:
"Excavation" means any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in an earth surface, formed by earth removal.
Section 1926.651 (b)(3) and (i)(1) state:
§1926.651 Specific excavation requirements.
(b) Underground installations.
(3) When excavation operations approach the estimated location of underground installations, the exact location of the installations shall be determined by safe and acceptable means. [Emphasis added.]
(i) Stability of adjacent structures. (1) Where the stability of adjoining buildings, walls, or other structures is endangered by excavation operations, support systems such as shoring, bracing, or underpinning shall be provided to ensure the stability of such structures for the protection of employees. [Emphasis added.]
Although the term "excavation" is defined in subpart P, both §1926.651 (b)(3) and (i)(1) refer to "excavation operations," which is not defined in §1926.650(b).

Common usage of the term "operation," as reflected in the 1982 edition of the Random House College Dictionary's definition, is "the act or an instance, process, or manner of functioning or operating." Therefore, in the context of these provisions, "excavation operations" means the act or process of excavating.

If you need additional information, please contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance, 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.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction

1 We understand that you have asked your question with respect to Federal OSHA requirements. With regard to requirements applicable in Virginia, note that any State (including Virginia) that administers its own OSHA-approved State plan is required by law to have a program of standards and enforcement that is at least as effective as the Federal OSHA requirements. However, it may enact more stringent requirements. Employers in that State are then required to follow the State's more stringent requirements. If you would like your issue to be addressed as it pertains in Virginia, you should contact Virginia directly for specific information on their interpretation and enforcement policy, at the following address:
Virginia Department of Labor and Industry
Powers-Taylor Building
13 South 13th Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

C. Raymond Davenport, Commissioner
(804) 786-2377
(804) 371-6524 FAX
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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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