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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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 5, 2008

Ms. Susan Richard, P.E.
Domingue, Szabo & Associates, Inc.
P.O. Box 52115
Lafayette, LA 70505-2115

Dear Ms. Richard:

Thank you for your letter of November 29, 2007, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter has been forwarded to OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) for response. You had concerns related to the longitudinal spacing of egress steps in concrete drainage channels. Your paraphrased question and our response follow.

Question: We are constructing a concrete-lined trapezoidal drainage channel. The channel will be approximately 32 feet wide and 8½ feet deep. What are the requirements regarding the longitudinal placement of steps cast into the wall to allow for maintenance access and for emergency egress of persons who accidentally fall into the channel, particularly when the channel is carrying drainage flow?

Answer: OSHA does not have any specific requirements related to the longitudinal spacing of means of emergency egress for non-construction employees, cast steps, or otherwise in concrete drainage ditches. While there is no specific standard addressing this hazard, you must still comply with Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act which requires employers to furnish a place of employment free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

Although no OSHA standards address this situation, you are required by Section 5(a)(1) to determine the specifications necessary for the longitudinal placement of the steps to abate the egress hazards you describe. This evaluation would be conducted on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the conditions at the worksite and whether or not the spacing provided can allow for safe access to, and egress from, the drainage channel described.

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 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

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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