Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

July 16, 1996


FROM:               JOHN B. MILES, JR., DIRECTOR 

SUBJECT:            NFPA 101-1970, Life Safety Code
The purpose of this memorandum is to correct a misunderstanding of the intent of a letter (attached) issued by the national office on the use of the subject national consensus standard as a source for clarification of 29 CFR 1910 Subpart E standards.

The second sentence in the first paragraph of the attached letter states: "However, NFPA 101-1970 does not have the force of law, and should not be used as a source for clarification of our Subpart E standards." What OSHA intends by this statement is that OSHA does not defer its interpretative authority to national consensus standards. OSHA will continue to use national consensus standards, such as NFPA 101, as reference sources for clarification of OSHA standards.

OSHA has an ongoing policy of recommending that employers comply with the current revision of a national consensus standard relative to a previous revision which was incorporated, usually with changes, into OSHA regulations. This recommendation is predicted on compliance with a current national consensus standard which provides at least the same level of safety and health as would otherwise be provided by complying with the previous national consensus standard adopted into OSHA regulations.


January 17, 1983

Mr. Lars Qualben
Safety Consultant
M & M Protection Consultants
1221 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10020

Dear Mr. Qualben:

This is in response to your letter of December 22, 1982, requesting a Subpart E clarification.

29 CFR 1910.39 does state that "the entire subpart is promulgated from NFPA 101-1970, Life Safety Code". However, NFPA 101-1970 does not have the force of law, and should not be used as a source for clarification of our Subpart E standards. OSHA will provide any clarifications required for our standards.

Our existing Subpart E standards do not regulate the specific parameters for a deadend corridor length, exit travel distance, or a specific number of exits. When Subpart E is modified in the future requirements could be proposed to regulate the above mentioned specific circumstances.

State or local governments enforce their building codes independently of the occupational safety and health standards. All workplaces must comply with OSHA's minimum Means of Egress standards; however, state or local government model building codes may enforce more stringent Means of Egress requirements within their jurisdiction.

If I may be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me.


John K. Barto
Chief, Division of
Occupational Safety Programming