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 http://www.osha.gov.

June 7, 2004



Deputy Assistant Secretary
SUBJECT: Reminder: Guidelines Not Basis for Citation


OSHA has just released guidelines for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in grocery stores. This release joins the Agency's other occupational safety and health guidelines (ergonomics for meatpacking plants, workplace violence in late-night retail, workplace violence in health care industry, ergonomics in the nursing home industry, and safety and health program management) as advisory and informational tools for employers and employees. All of these guidelines were issued to help employers reduce the number and severity of injuries in their workplaces.

Guidelines are designed to increase employer and employee awareness of specific workplace hazards and to highlight ways in which employers and employees can work together to eliminate those hazards. Employers are encouraged to review and strengthen their overall safety and health practices and to guard against workplace accidents, injuries, and illnesses. The guidelines provide a general framework for action by employers and employees.

This memorandum is a reminder that these guidelines are not new standards or regulations and do not create any new OSHA duties for employers. An employer's failure to implement a guideline is, therefore, not a violation, or evidence of a violation of the general duty clause of the OSH Act [29 U.S.C. 654(a)(1)]. Furthermore, the fact that OSHA has developed industry-specific guidelines is not evidence of an employer's obligations under the general duty clause; and the fact that a measure is recommended in any OSHA guideline document but not adopted by an employer is not evidence of a violation of the general duty clause. In addition, the recommendations contained in the guidelines were developed with the idea that they could be adapted to the needs and resources of each individual place of employment. Thus, implementation of the guidelines may differ from site to site depending on the circumstances at each particular site.