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.
August 14, 2002
Mr. Thomas E. Powell, II
Greenebaum Doll & McDonald, PLLC
3300 National City Tower
101 South Fifth Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202-3197
Dear Mr. Powell:
Thank you for your October 24, 2001 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Regional Office in Kansas City, Missouri. Your letter was referred to the [Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP), Office of General Industry Enforcement (GIE)] in Washington, D.C. for response. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any situation not delineated within your original correspondence. You had specific questions regarding the applicability of certain American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards to a robotic assembly process and robotic machinery. Our responses to your paraphrased scenario and questions are provided below. Please accept our apology for the delay in responding to your letter.
Scenario: An employer has constructed a robotic assembly line consisting of robotic machinery and conveyors. During the construction, initial installation, and testing of this robotic machinery, the employer ensured that the machinery complied with the applicable ANSI standard, ANSI/RIA R15.06-1999. In the interim, the employer has learned that this particular ANSI standard will be revised. The new standard contains significant changes impacting the design and construction of the robotic machinery.
NOTE: Please be advised, when a national consensus organization revises their consensus standard(s) that "...contains significant changes impacting the design and construction...." and does not affect the safety and health of employees at the employer's workplace, OSHA's enforcement authority may be exempted.
Question: Is an employer required to comply with a revised ANSI standard when the machinery is in the process of being manufactured, installed, and tested and is otherwise in compliance with the existing [ANSI] standard?
Response: ANSI standards are voluntary. They only become mandatory when, and if, they are adopted by OSHA. At this time, OSHA does not have a specific standard for robotics. Therefore, it is the employer's responsibility to assess the specific workplace conditions and determine if the revision or update is necessary to provide equal or greater protection for employees. During an OSHA inspection, if protection is found to be lacking, and employees are exposed to hazards that are causing or likely to cause, death or serious physical harm, then a violation of the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, may be proposed.
Question: Do ANSI standards contain "grandfather" provisions allowing for compliance with an existing [ANSI] standard when a standard is revised during the construction of machinery?
Response: Please contact ANSI directly to determine whether their consensus standards in general, or the robotic machinery standard in particular, contain "grandfather" provisions that may be applicable to your situation. The following postal address, phone number, and website is provided for your use:
American National Standards Institute
11 West 42nd St
New York, NY 10036
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirement 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 http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of General Industry Enforcement] at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
[Directorate of Enforcment Programs]