Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents|
| Standard Number:||1926.1101|
March 5, 2010
Ms. Judith Seraphin, CEO
Dear Ms. Seraphin:
Thank you for your January 7, 2010, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerning the Asbestos standard for construction, 29 CFR 1926.1101, and whether a specific brand of plastic sheeting meets the requirements of this standard. This reply letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not detailed in your original correspondence. Your paraphrased question and requests and our replies are below.
Background: You explained that your company manufactures a brand of shrink-wrapped, 12 mil polyolefin sheeting called Global Wrap®, and you have asked OSHA to examine the performance of your product with respect to whether or not it meets or exceeds OSHA requirements. You stated that asbestos removal contractors have reported to you that when they have used two layers of 6 mil plastic, often their containment pulls away from the walls and floors, resulting in accidental leaks of airborne asbestos fibers. You stated that your Global Wrap® permits Class I asbestos containments to remain drum-tight. You asked if you could provide a briefing to OSHA about this.
Question: You specifically asked whether asbestos removal contractors may use one layer of 12 mil polyolefin sheeting to protect workers and the environment, instead of two layers of 6 mil polyethylene plastic, which OSHA specifies in §1926.1101(g)(4)(iii), (g)(5)(ii)(B)(6), and (g)(5)(iv)(B)(3).
Alternative Requests:You also made three alternative requests if OSHA would not allow the use of 12 mil plastic in lieu of two layers of 6 mil plastic:(1) you requested that your letter be considered a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for a rulemaking allowing the use of one 12 mil layer of plastic in asbestos removal jobs; (2) you requested under the Freedom of Information Act, the Electronic Freedom of Information Act, and the Data Quality Act that OSHA identify any data that supports the use of two layers of 6 mil plastic rather than one layer of 12 mil plastic; and, (3) if there was any such data, you requested that OSHA would permit you to present a rebuttal pursuant to the Data Quality Act.
Reply: OSHA does not approve, endorse, or recommend any particular manufactured product because the manufacturer cannot ensure how the product will be used. The final determination of compliance with OSHA's standards must take into account all factors pertaining to the use of such product at a particular work site with respect to worker safety and health. This must include an evaluation, through direct observation, of employee work practices and all conditions of use in the workplace. Therefore, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, only the employer is responsible for compliance with the Act and for the safe use of any product by its workers.
Your letter appears to presume that OSHA's Asbestos standard for construction, 29 CFR 1926.1101, allows only the use of two layers of 6 mil polyethylene sheeting (poly) for construction of the walls and floors of a Class I containment, whereas this is not correct. This standard only mentions the use of two layers of 6 mil poly when performing Class I asbestos operations in the following provisions:
§1926.1101(g)(4)(iii) - For all Class I jobs, [Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning] HVAC systems shall be isolated in the regulated area by sealing with a double layer of 6 mil plastic or the equivalent.
§1926.1101(g)(5)(ii)(B)(6) - Before beginning the operation [of using glove bag systems to remove presumed asbestos-containing material (PACM) and/or asbestos-containing material (ACM) from straight runs of piping and elbows and other connections], loose and friable material adjacent to the glovebag/box operation shall be wrapped and sealed in two layers of six mil plastic or otherwise rendered intact.
§1926.1101(g)(5)(iv)(B)(3) - [Before beginning the operation of using negative pressure glove boxes to remove ACM or PACM from pipe runs,] Loose or damaged ACM adjacent to the box shall be wrapped and sealed in two layers of 6 mil plastic prior to the job, or otherwise made intact prior to the job.
§1926.1101(g)(5)(iv)(A)(7) - Waste bags [used to collect ACM waste when using negative pressure glove box systems] shall consist of 6 mil thick plastic double-bagged before they are filled or plastic thicker than 6 mil.
Each of these provisions specifies that two layers of 6 mil plastic or the equivalent may be used to meet the minimum protections that OSHA requires where there is any potential for containment seals to be breached by the force of air, equipment, or ACM waste. The design of 12 mil polyolefin plastic sheeting appears to be able to provide equivalent or better protection for these provisions.
We would be pleased to hear more information about your product. To make arrangements, you may contact Mr. Richard Fairfax, Director of Enforcement Programs, (202) 693-2100. 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, as mentioned above, at www.osha.gov.
David Michaels, PhD, MPH
Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents|