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.

November 10, 2004

Mr. Edward V. Grund, CSP, PE
Chairman, Z244 ASC
1800 E. Oakton Street
Des Plaines, IL 60018

Dear Mr. Grund:

This is in response to your March 22, 2004 letter to John Henshaw, Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter seeks recognition of the revised American National Standard on the Control of Hazardous Energy - Lockout/Tagout And Alternative Methods (ANSI/ASSE Z244.1-2003) and requests that the Agency hyperlink from the OSHA web site to an American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) web page, which contains information about both the Z244 American Standards Committee (ASC) and the revised consensusstandard. Your letter was forwarded to our office to reply.

The Z244 American Standards Committee requests that OSHA provide "enhanced recognition" of its latest ANSI standard concerning the control of hazardous energy. Your letter conveys the committee's belief that such recognition may help prevent future injuries and would be consistent with provisions of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA), 15 USC §272, and the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-119, Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities.

OSHA shares your interest in preventing workplace injuries and recognizes the valuable contribution that your committee has made in developing the new Z244.1 standard. In addition, OSHA is committed to working cooperatively with entities such as ANSI and ASSE to further workplace safety and health. As provided below, we agree that it is prudent to reference the current American National Standard on the control of hazardous energy on OSHA's web site. Moreover, OSHA welcomes other cooperative initiatives that would assist employers and employees to further occupational safety by effectively controlling hazardous energy.

The OMB Circular (consistent with Section 12(d) of the NTTAA) directs agencies to use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of developing government-unique standards, except when such use would be inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical.
1Neither the NTTAA nor the OMB Circular mandate the revision of an existing standard, such as the Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) (LOTO), 29 CFR §1910.147, whenever a relevant consensus standard is amended. However, OSHA will consider all relevant consensus standards, including the current ANSI standard, if the Agency determines in the future that it is appropriate to revise §1910.147.

Your paraphrased questions and our replies follow:

Question #1: The ANSI Accredited Standards Committee formally requests that OSHA link to the [Z244 Committee] to OSHA's [Safety and Health Topics: Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) page]. [Links embedded for OSHA web site posting.]

Reply: OSHA believes that it is appropriate to add the ANSI Z244 Committee link and this letter to the Control of Hazardous Energy page in the Safety and Health Topics section of the OSHA web site, and we will do so.

Question #2: OSHA references the Z244.1-1982 (R1993) standard in a number of locations on the OSHA web site. The ASC's view is that the Z244.1-2003 standard provides a level of protection superior to the earlier version and recommends that future references to the Z244.1 standard should refer to the 2003 standard. Does OSHA agree with the contention that future references to the Z244.1 standard need to also include the 2003 standard?

Reply: In the future, OSHA will reference the most recent version of the Z244.1 standard, whenever appropriate. Thus, on the OSHA web site, the Agency will refer to the Z244.1-2003 standard when referencing consensus standards and other recognized resources that provide information and guidance concerning the control of hazardous energy. However, OSHA will continue to reference the Z244.1-1982 standard when citing specific sources that the Agency considered in developing 29 CFR 1910.147, see, e.g., 54 FR 36644, 36645 (September 1, 1989) (acknowledging the role that the Z244.1-1982 standard played in the development of OSHA's LOTO standard). Likewise, the Agency will reference only the Z244.1-1982 standard when referring to situations where OSHA explicitly considered the Z244.1-1982 standard, as opposed to the Z244.1-2003 standard, in developing a policy or practice regarding the application of the 1910.147.

Question #3: What is OSHA's enforcement position if an employer is complying with the most recent version of a voluntary consensus standard, which was either previously adopted by reference or cited as a reference document during the rulemaking process?

Reply: As you know, OSHA carefully considered the 1982 ANSI standard in developing the agency's LOTO standard, 1910.147. However, OSHA did not adopt the standard by reference, and in some respects the agency deliberately departed from the ANSI standard in order to provide a higher level of employee protection, see 58 FR 16617 (March 30, 1993) (Supplemental Statement of Reasons for the Final Rule).

The OSH Act contemplates a distinction between the national consensus standard process and the process of OSHA rulemaking. While the former often produces information useful in the latter, it is not equivalent. Section 5(a)(2) of the OSH Act requires employers to comply with OSHA standards (29 USC §654(a)(2)). Thus, only national consensus standards that have been adopted as, or incorporated by reference into, an OSHA standard pursuant to Section 6 of the OSH Act provide a means of compliance with Section 5(a)(2) of the OSH Act.

While requiring employers to comply with OSHA standards, the OSH Act also authorizes OSHA to treat certain violations, which have no direct or immediate relationship to safety and health, as de minimis, requiring no penalty or abatement, see 29 USC §§ 654(a)(2) and 658(a). OSHA's enforcement policy provides that a violation may be de minimis, if an employer complies with a proposed standard or amendment or a consensus standard rather than with the standard in effect at the time of the inspection and the employer's action clearly provides equal or greater employee protection, see OSHA Instruction CPL 2.103, Field Inspection Reference Manual, Chapter III, Paragraph C(2)(g), September 26, 1994. In applying this principle, OSHA takes heed of its rulemaking findings.

Question #4: We would sincerely hope that OSHA agrees with the position of the Z244 ASC that the Z244.1 standard is a viable document to use as a guideline when implementing lockout/tagout programs.

Reply: OSHA recognizes the value of national consensus standards, and in many respects, the ANSI Z-244.1-2003 standard offers useful guidance for employers and employees attempting to control hazardous energy. However, OSHA has not determined that, in all cases, compliance with specific provisions of the ANSI Z244.1-2003 standard and its annexes would constitute compliance with relevant OSHA requirements.

To a considerable extent, the OSHA LOTO standard is a performance standard, which establishes general employer obligations, but leaves employers latitude to develop and implement specific methods for meeting those obligations. Where this is the case, the detailed discussion in the ANSI Z244.1-2003 standard often can assist employers in developing specific methods to meet their obligations under the OSHA LOTO standard. For example, the OSHA LOTO standard establishes specific minimum criteria relevant to all energy control procedures, see 1910.147(c)(4)(ii). In Annex C, the ANSI Z244.1-2003 standard details a sample energy control procedure for a blasting cabinet and dust extractor. While OSHA cannot ascertain whether the sample procedure provides the breadth and specificity mandated in 1910.147(c)(4)(ii) without more information about the actual machinery and the manner in which servicing and maintenance would be performed, this sample procedure may provide valuable conceptual assistance to an employer who is developing energy control procedures specific to its machinery/equipment as prescribed by the OSHA LOTO standard. In addition, the sample LOTO placards in Annex D are good examples of supplemental tools that provide critical information specific to particular machines and equipment. An employer who chooses to develop a single, generic energy control procedure can supplement its generic procedure with similar placards to comply with 1910.147(c)(4)(ii).

On the other hand, in several important respects, the ANSI standard appears to sanction practices that may provide less employee protection than that provided by compliance with the relevant OSHA provisions. For example, the consensus standard employs a decision matrix that allows employers to use alternative protective methods in situations where OSHA standardsrequire the implementation of lockout/tagout or machine guarding. In addition, the ANSI standard permits the use of tagout programs if they provide "effective" employee protection, while the OSHA LOTO standard allows the use of a tagout program only where the employer demonstrates it provides Full employee protection — i.e., a level of safety equivalent to that obtained by using a lockout program. Further, the Hazardous energy control procedures, Communication and training, and Program Review sections of the ANSI standard, while detailed and conceptually valuable, do not appear to mandate certain discrete practices that are prescribed in parallel sections of OSHA's LOTO standard.

OSHA has not formally compared each provision of the ANSI Z244.1-2003 standard with the parallel provisions in OSHA standards. Given the performance nature of both the ANSI standard and OSHA standards addressing the control of hazardous energy, the scope and purpose of OSHA letters of interpretation, and the fact-specific nature of OSHA enforcement decisions, we are not in a position to definitively state the practical effect of applying each of the various ANSI Z244.1 provisions to specific workplace conditions as you have requested. In determining whether it is appropriate to issue a citation for a violation of the OSH Act, OSHA Area Directors have the discretion to apply the Agency's de minimis policy as described above. However, when an OSHA standard prescribes a practice, design, or method that provides a requisite level of employee protection, employers may not adopt an alternative approach that provides a lesser level of employee protection, see 29 USC §§654(a)(2) and 655 (respectively requiring employers to comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under the OSH Act and providing the Secretary of Labor with authority to promulgate, modify, or revoke OSH Act occupational safety and health standards).

As you may be aware, OSHA's Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) directive (STD 1-7.3) currently is being revised; the revised directive will address the ANSI Z244.1-2003 standard to assure that OSHA personnel are familiar with the ANSI standard and conversant with the Agency's position with respect to the application of the ANSI standard.

Thank you for your interest and participation in activities that further occupational safety and health. OSHA is committed to working cooperatively with parties like ANSI and ASSE, who share the goal of furthering workplace health and safety. We hope that this letter provides the clarification you were seeking and effectively addresses the issues that you raised. 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. 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 Enforcement Program



1 In fact, Congress placed such a high value on consensus standards that it directed the Agency, through legislation, to utilize them in the rulemaking process. Section 6(b)(8) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-596) states: "Whenever a rule promulgated by the Secretary differs significantly from an existing national consensus standard, the Secretary shall, at the same time, publish in the Federal Register a statement of reasons why the rule as adopted will better effectuate the purposes of this Act than the national consensus standard." [ back to text ]





2 Specific national consensus standards [e.g., American National Standards (ANSI) standards], which the Secretary of Labor adopted on May 29, 1971, were either used as a source standard and published in Part 1910 as an OSHA standard or explicitly incorporated by reference in an OSHA standard. For further details see Section 6 of the OSH Act and §1910.6 for the specific standards incorporated by reference in this part. [ back to text ]

[Corrected on 1/09/2006]