May 19, 1997

Tony Howard, Safety Supervisor
Hoffman Construction Company of Oregon
P. O. Box 1300
Portland, Oregon 97207

Dear Mr. Howard:

This is in response to your April 3, 1997 letter seeking additional guidance on the intent offlagging on wire rope top rails. The August 9, 1994 Federal Register states that 29 CFR1926.502(b)(9), requiring top rails made of wire rope to be flagged every 6 feet or less withhighly visible material, was adopted for the sake of visibility. The 6 foot or less spacingrequirement for the flags was adopted in order to maintain consistency with other standards. Itwas noted at the time of adoption that flagging of wire rope is a common industry practice.

Keeping in mind the thoughts that went into the writing of the standard, and without any solidevidence that the black insulated wire used by your company is as visible under all conditions asa flagged wire, OR-OSHA believes that the use of unflagged "submarine wire" is unacceptableand does not provide protection for workers which is equivalent to the standard. Consistency anduniformity with industry practices are important factors which always need to be consideredwhen evaluating a proposed idea and when identifying a potential hazard, especially whereworkers often move from employer to employer with each job. While the use of spray paint onthe insulated wire might appear at first to meet the intent of the standard, it must be rememberedthat the accepted industry practice is to have wire rope identified with flags which not only callattention to the hazard by their color, but also by their movement in the breeze. If the use of suchflags creates some kind of hazard, then please notify OR-OSHA for further consideration,otherwise wire ropes used as top rails will be required to be properly flagged as described in 29CFR 1926.502(b)(9).

For further information please contact Mike Mitchell at 378-3272. You are also invited to see the OR-OSHA pages on the Internet at


Marilyn K. Schuster, Manager
Standards & Technical Resources Section
Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division