Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Westinghouse Electric Corp. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission


decided: March 25, 1980.


Petition for Review of an Order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Before Tone, Wood and Cudahy, Circuit Judges.

Author: Per Curiam

The issue in this case is the interpretation to be given two related standards regulating spray-finishing operations promulgated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.*fn1 The two standards are 29 C.F.R. § 1910.94(c) and 29 C.F.R. § 1910.107.*fn2

Westinghouse Electric Corporation was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for an alleged non-serious violation of 29 C.F.R. § 1910.94(c)(2) as a result of an inspection on June 6, 1975 of its Muncie, Indiana, large transformer plant.*fn3

There is no substantial dispute about the facts. Just prior to shipment the large transformers manufactured at Muncie are painted by four painters on three shifts using electrostatic paint spray equipment.*fn4 In 1975, 134 transformers were painted and shipped. The painting of each transformer entails approximately 44 minutes. Following an employee complaint, an OSHA Compliance Officer inspected the Westinghouse premises and upon concluding that the painting was not confined to a spray booth or spray room the citation was issued,*fn5 but without an actual observation of the painting operation, or sampling the air for contaminates or inquiry as to the nature of the paint material being used.

The issue was joined before the administrative law judge. The position taken by the Secretary of Labor was that no proof of harmful or hazardous conditions was necessary to show a violation as the spraying operation in any event was required under 29 C.F.R. § 1910.94(c)(2) to be conducted either in a spray booth or a spray room, and it was not. At that point Westinghouse did not argue that the painting was not done in a spray room or spray booth, but did dispute that either type room was necessary unless it was first established that the spraying caused dangerous or hazardous conditions under 29 C.F.R. § 1910.107(a)(2).

Since the circumstances closely paralleled the situation in Secretary of Labor v. Bethlehem Fabricators, Inc., OSHRC Docket No. 7176, (1976-1977) O.S.H. Dec. (CCH) P 20,782 (June 11, 1976), published after the Westinghouse citation was issued, the administrative law judge relied on Bethlehem. He held that Section 1910.94(c) should not be considered in isolation but should be examined in relation to other standards on the same subject and in particular Section 1910.107(a)(2). It was incumbent, he held, on the Secretary when combustible materials were used, as in this case, to satisfy the requirements of Section 1910.107(a)(2). That section defines a spraying area as any area in which dangerous quantities of flammable vapors or mist, or combustible residues, dusts, or deposits are present due to the operation of the spraying process. Since the Secretary's evidence had not shown that there were hazards or dangers to the employees, the administrative law judge found that the company was not in violation of 29 C.F.R. § 1910.94(c)(2) requiring a spray booth or a spray room.

When the decision of the administrative law judge was reviewed by the full Commission, Bethlehem was overruled.*fn6 This time the Commission held that in spite of many cross references between Section 1910.94 and Section 1910.107, the standards need not be read in conjunction. The Commission relied upon what it perceived to be the plain reading of Section 1910.94(c)(2) which by its terms requires that all spray-finishing operations be enclosed or confined in a spray room or spray booth regardless of whether hazards exist or not, with an exception not applicable here. That view of the relationship of the two standards is sought to be justified by a discussion of the origin and adoption of the two sections derived from different sources. The Commission majority concludes that the drafters intended that all spray-finishing operations be enclosed or confined.*fn7 It is the Commission's conclusion that 1910.94(c) (2) and 1910.107 are addressed to different hazards and working conditions. Therefore it finds that Section 1910.94(c)(2) regulates the use of spray booths or spray rooms for all spray-finishing operations, whereas 1910.107 provides ventilation requirements for those operations otherwise governed by 1910.94(c) which employ flammable or combustible materials.

In dissent, Commissioner Baranko argues that the two standards cannot be so neatly divided, as he finds it obvious that the two standards are not only directed toward different hazards but also to similar aspects of the same hazard. He further argues that it cannot be shown that 1910.107 is directed only to fire hazards, as 1910.94(c) also has provisions directed toward fire hazards. Commissioner Baranko departed from his majority view in Bethlehem as he now agrees that the Secretary need not establish that dangerous quantities of emissions are produced by spray paint operations before a spray booth or spray room is required under 1910.94(c)(2). However, Commissioner Baranko does not agree that 1910.94(c) and 1910.107 are directed to entirely different hazards and working conditions and that the existence of hazards is totally irrelevant in determining whether 1910.94(c)(2) has been violated. Therefore, he argues that in order to establish a violation of 1910.94(c)(2) the Secretary must show precisely in what respect the spray painting operation was deficient.

Further, Commissioner Baranko disputes that the evidence showed that Westinghouse was not using a spray room as distinguished from a spray booth. A spray room "is a room in which spray-finishing operations not conducted in a spray booth are performed separately from other areas"*fn8 (emphasis supplied). The standard does not specify what "separately" means in terms of distance or other conditions. Therefore, Commissioner Baranko argues that the Secretary failed to establish that the spraying was not performed separately from other areas in the room because if sufficiently separated it would qualify as a spray room. He then concludes that since Westinghouse was not shown to be in violation of the definitional requirement of a spray room, a violation could result only from a violation of a design or mechanical specification for a spray room, which he finds not to exist in the record.

In coming to our own conclusion in this case, we shall not endeavor to pursue all the arguments on both sides. It is obvious that the two standards are not easily intelligible to those subject to them, to those who administer them, or to those of us who try to determine what they mean. It is not our task to rewrite the standards. We do regret, however, that the thought of rewriting the standards apparently has not occurred to the Secretary. Recognizing that the purpose of the standards is to protect the health and safety of employees, although confusingly attempted, we attempt a rational resolution of the problem.

As in Diebold, Inc. v. Marshall, 585 F.2d 1327, 1334 (6th Cir. 1978), given the "inartful drafting" of the two sections "neither interpretation can be branded as particularly unreasonable." Since some of the ambiguities resulting from deficient drafting will remain in spite of our decision, rewriting by the Secretary will remain worthy of consideration. Rewriting would be expected to avoid the Commission's own shifting interpretation as well as likely divergent views arising in the various circuits. We are mindful of the great deference we owe to the Commission's reasonable interpretation of the Secretary's regulations, at least under ordinary circumstances. That deference is dubiously bestowed, however, when the Commission's view taken of the tangle between the two sections is reversed within a short period of time seemingly with the change of a single commissioner, and each of the Commission's decisions has prompted a dissent.

No one claims that Westinghouse had even an inadequate "spray booth." The definition of a spray booth is set forth at 29 C.F.R. § 1910.107(a)(3) and is incorporated by reference at 29 C.F.R. § 1910.94(c)(ii), and provides:

Spray booth. A power-ventilated structure provided to enclose or accommodate a spraying operation to confine and limit the escape of spray, vapor, and residue, and to safely conduct or direct them to an exhaust system.

However, the Commission majority does not hold that the spray painting must be in a spray booth. It appears a spray room will also satisfy the requirements. A "spray room" is defined under applicable definitions in Section 1910.94(c) (iii) as follows:

A spray room is a room in which spray-finishing operations not conducted in a spray booth are performed separately from other areas.

Following, however, in Section 1910.94(c)(2), titled "Location and application," and also in Section 1910.94(c)(8), titled "Scope," appears language suggesting what may be additional or different requirements.

Spray booths or spray rooms are to be used to enclose or confine all operations. (Emphasis added.)

Being performed "separately from other areas" as required in the spray room definition section suggests a different interpretation than being "enclosed," one of the terms used in the "Location and application" and "Scope" sections. The other term used is "confined." The words "enclosed or confined," even if those terms are to be read into the definitions, are used disjunctively. It appears that either to be enclosed or to be confined will suffice. That the two terms refer to different means of limiting the spraying operation is suggested by the ordinary meaning of the terms and the use of the disjunctive "or." We interpret enclosed to suggest being "fenced in," but confined to suggest being kept within limits. Perhaps a mere space separation might serve to confine the spray painting within certain limits in relation to any other activities in the same room and thereby qualify as a spray room. Distance alone, however, would not be enough to qualify as enclosed in a spray booth.

It is also reasonable to infer that the use of the word "room" is intended to signify something different than the word "booth." As used, the word "room" suggests that activities other than spray painting may be in the same general room provided the spray painting is sufficiently separated from any other activities so that the spray painting causes no interference. The regulations require that both spray rooms and spray booths be ventilated. It is less likely that it was contemplated that a booth could have activities other than paint spraying present in the booth. A booth suggests that it is to be exclusively for spray painting.

The Commission majority opinion concludes that since the spray painting was not enclosed or confined by a spray booth or spray room the violation is established. The Commission majority opinion notes, however, that other production activities "took place as close as five feet from the spray finishing." In a footnote to the majority conclusion it is stated that a spray room is a room where spray painting is conducted with adequate physical separation from other areas as contrasted with spray booths which are physically enclosed structures made of steel or concrete, etc., and removed at least three feet from other operations. There is the additional footnote comment that there is no indication that spray rooms may be separated from other areas by as little as three feet. We believe that to some extent there may be some common ground for reconciling the differences between the Commission majority and the dissent as to the requirements. It is possible to read the majority opinion as grounding the alleged violation on the close proximity of the spray painting to other activities in the same room, and not on the absence of a physical partition between the two. If so, then there is no definition disagreement between us. If a steel and concrete barrier is not required as provided in 1910.107(b) for the construction of a spray booth, and we find no similar construction requirements for a spray room, perhaps, the separation can be achieved, for example, by the use of only a sliding fireproof curtain to be closed during painting so as to qualify as a spray room in the particular circumstances. How spray room separation may be achieved is a matter for the expertise of the agency. It seems to us that costly structural modification should not be required unless a reasonable need can be demonstrated.

The evidence offered by the Secretary as to the particular conditions found to exist near the paint spraying was characterized by the Secretary's own counsel as only a "crude" test. To determine the amount of overspray metal tags were placed on the floor from 10 up to 30 feet from the generators being sprayed. Some overspray was demonstrated. However, Westinghouse used a more sophisticated test which included a test of airborne matter and vapors. That test demonstrated that the operation was within the limits for employee exposure to air contaminants.*fn9 The record was not developed for the purpose and is not sufficient to support a determination of whether or not the location of the Westinghouse spray painting is sufficiently separated from other activities in the particular circumstances so as to qualify as being conducted in a spray room.*fn10

We find no merit to the other arguments of Westinghouse alleging a due process violation or that it is entitled to the "small portable spraying apparatus" exemption contained in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.94(c)(8).

The order of the Commission is vacated and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion to determine whether or not the spray painting is being conducted in a spray room.*fn11 Each party shall bear its own costs.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.