EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH
APPEALS BOARD

Summary of COUNTY OF L.A., METROPOLITAN TRANSIT AUTHORITY (MTA)


This is the lead case of 3 cases in which different employers were cited under section 1626(e) for exposure of their employees to the same stairway hazard at MTA stations under construction. The stairway abutted a partially installed escalator on one side and a concrete slab in-set with light wells on the other, the escalator and the lighting slab were on the same inclined plane as the stairway. Hence, from any point on the stairway, there was no drop in elevation from the side of the stairway to the adjoining side of either the escalator or lighting slab. Section 1629(e) requires stair railings on "open sides" of stairs. The Board finds that "stair railings," which require mid-rails, are designed to protect employees against the hazard of falling off a drop at the side of a stairway, and that, in this context, "open sides" are stairway sides where there is a drop of "appreciable distance," to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Here there was no such drop on either side of the stairway and, therefore, no "open sides" subject to the 1626(e) "stair railing" requirement. The companion cases, decided on the same facts and rationale are Kiewit-Shea 98-604 and Shasta Electric 98-538. There was an additional issue in the County Of L.A., MTA case. With notice to the parties, the ALJ amended the citation after the case had been submitted to allege a violation of section 1629(a)(2) which requires stairways to be equipped with "handrails." "Handrails" have a different purpose than "stair railings"; they provide employees with hand-hold protection against falls onto or down the stairway itself. A "handrail" may consist of a single rail (no mid-rail) 30" to 34" above the plane of the stair treads; a convenient hand-hold height. In contrast, to provide side-fall [open side] protection, the top rail of "stair railings" must be 42" to 45" above the tread plane to deter falls over the top of the barrier and include a mid-rail to prevent falls under the top rail. The ALJ found a violation of section 1629(a)(2). Employer claimed it was prejudiced by the amendment. The Board concurred because sections 1626(e) and 1629(a)(2) address different hazards, and DOSH, who has the discretion to determine which safety order to cite chose not to amend and attempted to prove only a violation of section 1626(e).

COUNTY OF L.A., METROPOLITAN TRANSIT AUTHORITY (MTA) 98-R6D2-539
December 21, 1999