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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.217; 1910.147; 1910.147(a)(2)(ii); 1910.147(b); 1910.147(f)(1)

This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any situation not delineated within the original correspondence.

May 4, 2007

Mr. Dan Steigerwald, ARM
IMA of Kansas, Inc.
P.O. Box 2922
Wichita, KS 67201-2992

Dear Mr. Steigerwald:

Thank you for your June 8, 2006, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. You had questions regarding OSHA's Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout or LOTO) standard, 29 CFR 1910.147, as it relates to the troubleshooting of equipment. Your paraphrased scenario, questions and our responses follow.

Scenario: We operate several large punch presses1 in our metal fabrication plant. We use several kinds of dies in some of our larger presses and, on occasion, our maintenance personnel stand inside the guard across the back of the machine to observe/troubleshoot malfunctions of our dies. The dies must be observed while the machine is running, and our personnel must be in close proximity to the dies as they come together to locate the minute imperfections which cause malfunctions. Once the problem is identified, our personnel leave the area and lock the machine out by following machine specific procedures until the repair is made. We cannot properly troubleshoot some of our dies without the machine running and our personnel standing inside of the rear guard.

Question 1: Does 29 CFR 1910.147 allow this practice?

Response: While it is not possible to conclusively determine the answer to your question without observing the particular pieces of equipment and considering the manner in which they are situated and used, the practices you describe would most likely not be in compliance with 29 CFR 1910.147.

The task you describe would involve an employee observing whether the equipment is operating properly. This activity would be considered inspecting the equipment and, therefore, would be considered Servicing and/or maintenance as defined at §1910.147(b). Although LOTO applies to servicing and maintenance, minor adjustments which occur during normal production operations may be exempt from the LOTO under the minor servicing exception. The minor servicing exception provides that minor tool changes and adjustments and other minor servicing activities which take place during normal production operations may be exempt from the LOTO standard if the activity is routine, repetitive, and integral to the use of the equipment for production purposes, provided that the work is performed using alternative measures which provide effective employee protection. An employer bears the burden of demonstrating, on a case-by-case basis, that the minor servicing exception applies, in accordance with the note found at §1910.147(a)(2)(ii). If, in your scenario, the minor servicing exception were to apply, you would need to employ alternative safeguarding measures. Such alternative safeguarding measures may include devices such as, but not limited to, two-hand trip or control devices, restraint devices that prevent the employee from entering the zone of danger, video cameras that would allow remote observation of the dies, and plexiglass barriers that allow for close inspection of the operation, yet prevent introduction of the employee's body into the machine hazard area. It must be emphasized that every employee performing these inspection tasks must be protected from exposure to hazardous energy.

If the inspection/troubleshooting activity you describe does not constitute minor servicing during normal production operations, the LOTO standard also recognizes that there are circumstances under which it is absolutely necessary to test and position the machine while energized during servicing and maintenance. The provisions found in §1910.147(f)(1) allow for the testing or positioning of machines while energized, however, the provisions also require that employees be removed from the area when the energization and testing and/or positioning occurs. In the event that it is impossible to remove employees from the machine area and still conduct the type of inspection that must be performed, you must provide alternative employee protection through the use of the safeguarding measures previously discussed (e.g., two-hand trip or control devices, employee restraints, cameras, and plexiglass barriers) to be in compliance with the standard.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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 any further 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 If the presses are mechanical power presses, there are additional requirements in §1910.217, including provisions that address safeguarding, that may be applicable. Furthermore, industry consensus standards such as American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards Mechanical Power Presses — Safety Requirements for Construction, Care, and Use, ANSI B11.1-2001, and Hydraulic Power Presses — Safety Requirements for Construction, Care, and Use, ANSI B11.2-1995 (revised 2005), may provide additional guidance with regard to safeguarding operations such as die try-out, adjustment, cleaning, and repair. [ back to text ]

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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