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.

May 24, 1996

Ms. Tonnia B. Strand
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
11225 West Bernardo Court
San Diego, CA 92127

Dear Ms. Strand:

Thank you for your letter of December 8, 1995 regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) position on PROTRAC, your company's computerized fire and safety bar code management system. You requested an interpretation as to whether this system complies with OSHA/NFPA standards. We apologize for the delay in this response.

The PROTRAC system you described uses a bar code reader to document inspection and maintenance activities of fire and safety equipment. You did not mention any specific safety equipment or reference any specific OSHA/NFPA regulations, requiring us to give a general statement of interpretation in response. The bar code system must comply with all relevant sections of OSHA regulations requiring such inspection and maintenance records, such as 1910.157(e)(3) and (f)(16) relating to portable fire extinguishers. Section 1910.157(f)(16) requires, among other things, that a record be kept and made available to the Assistant Secretary containing the signature of the person who performed the test, and the serial number/identifier of the extinguisher. You should carefully review all relevant OSHA/NFPA requirements for written documentation and incorporate all such requirements.

In addition, OSHA does allow employers to comply with consensus standards that may differ from OSHA standards in the following context. An employer who complies with a consensus standard, such as NFPA-10, rather than an OSHA standard in effect at the time of inspection and clearly provides equal or greater employee protection will not be cited (OSHA's De Minimis policy, OSHA Instruction 2.103, September 26, 1994, Field Instruction Reference Manual, Chapter III-19 and 20). Practically put, as long as this system complies with: (1) OSHA standards at 1910.157 and elsewhere, or (2) an NFPA standard which offers equal or greater employee protection and meets the intent of the OSHA standard, then compliance has been met.

Thank you for your interest in safety and health. Please call Margo Daniel, of my staff, at (202)219-8041 #107 if we can be of any further assistance.


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs