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 https://www.osha.gov.

June 14, 1990

Mr. F.K. "Sam" Parmely
Senior Safety and Health Auditor
Brown and Root, Inc.
Safety and Health Department
P.O. Box 3
Houston, Texas 77001

Dear Mr. Parmely:

This is in response to your letter of November 15, 1989, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regional Office in Dallas, Texas, requesting an interpretation of OSHA standards at 29 CFR 1910.261(a)(1) and 1910.261(a)(4)(ii). Your letter was subsequently forwarded to the National Office for a response. We apologize for the delay in our response.

In your letter, you addressed three questions relative to the standards mentioned earlier. The responses addressed in this letter are in the order your questions were presented.

Among other policies, OSHA has a de minimis violations policy (copy enclosed) that accepts the current industry consensus standard, if the consensus standard provides personnel protection equal to or greater than the protection provided by the applicable OSHA standard. Based upon this policy, an employer who meets the requirements contained in [NFPA 101-2000] would be in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requirements, so long as the 1988 edition provides equal or greater protection than the 1970 edition.

The industry consensus standard used in developing the OSHA standard at 1910.261 for pulp, paper, and paperboard mills was ANSI P1.1-1969. This ANSI standard referenced various industry consensus standards, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard, NFPA 101, Building Exits Code for Life Safety from Fire.

The industry consensus standards that were used in the development of the other OSHA Subpart R industry standards, however, did not reference NFPA 101. Copies of portions of the industry consensus standards that are relevant in the development of the respective Subpart R OSHA standards, are enclosed.

For the reasons mentioned in the above two paragraphs, the standards contained in 1910.261 reference NFPA 101, and the other Subpart R industry standards do not.

OSHA is aware of your concerns, and at present is revising its standard for pulp, paper and paperboard mills. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for this revised standard will be published for public comment in the near future, at which time you may submit your comments. Your name has been forwarded to the Office of Safety Standards Programs for inclusion in their mailing list for distribution of the NPRM. In the mean time, if you wish to know the status of the NPRM, you may write directly to:

Office of Safety Standards Programs
U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA
200 Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20210

[This document was edited on 02/05/2004 to strike information that no longer reflects current OSHA policy. The standard was revised on 06/18/98, see 63 FR 33450.]

In response to your final question, you may be aware that the primary intent of the OSHA standard at 1910.261(a)(4)(ii) is to protect employees from the fire hazards and like hazards. The standard does not differentiate one type of building or structure from another. Therefore, the OSHA standard applies to every type of building or structure, including power houses, power boilers, recovery boilers, kiln dryer structures, chlorine bleachers, paper machine building, pulp drying building, and finishing and storage buildings.

If we may be of further assistance, please contact us. Thank you for your interest in safety and health.


Patricia K. Clark Director
Designate Directorate of Compliance Programs


[Corrected 2/6/2004]