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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.
September 28, 2009
Mr. Kyle Pitsor
Vice President, Government Relations
National Electrical Manufacturers Association
1300 North 17th Street, Suite 1752
Rosslyn, VA 22209
Dear Mr. Pitsor:
Thank you for your June 2, 2009, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). Your letter has been referred to DEP's Office of General Industry Enforcement (GIE) for a response to your request for OSHA to adopt American National Standard Instruction (ANSI) Z535.2-2007, Standard for Environmental and Facility Safety Signs, and create a hyperlink on OSHA's website to a National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) web page, which contains information about the Z535.2 committee. With your correspondence, you enclosed a supporting letter from the Z535.2 American Standards Committee (ASC) Chair, Mr. Geoffrey Peckham, requesting that OSHA recognize that the latest ANSI standard concerning signage for accident prevention provides an equal or greater level of protection as compared to the earlier version of the standard (ANSI Z35.1) as referenced by OSHA in its regulations.
OSHA shares your interest in preventing workplace injuries and recognizes the valuable contribution that the ANSI Z535.2 committee has made in developing the new standard. If the Agency determines in the future that it is appropriate to revise standards containing safety signage requirements, OSHA will consider information from all relevant consensus standards, including the current ANSI standard.
The questions you submitted are paraphrased for clarity, and our replies follow:
Question 1: The ANSI ASC formally requests that OSHA create a link to the Z535.2 committee's web page on OSHA's Safety and Health Topics page titled, "Accident Prevention Signs." Will OSHA create the link?
Reply 1: OSHA believes that it is appropriate to add the ANSI Z535.2 committee link on the Safety and Health Topics section of the OSHA website, and we will do so consistent with current Agency policies regarding links to websites outside of the Department of Labor (DOL). Links to websites outside of DOL are offered for convenience in accessing the related information, but do not constitute an endorsement of the website or its content, nor does it suggest that there are not other websites which may offer related information.
Question 2: OSHA references the ANSI Z35.1-1968 standard in a number of locations on the OSHA website. The ASC's view is that the ANSI Z535.2-2007 standard provides a level of protection superior to the earlier version and recommends that future references to the ANSI Z35.1-1968 standard should refer to the ANSI Z535.2-2007 standard. Does OSHA agree with the contention that future references to the ANSI Z35.1-1968 standard should refer to the ANSI Z535.2-2007 standard?
Reply 2: OSHA will continue to reference the ANSI Z35.1-1968 standard when citing specific sources that the Agency considered in developing its policies and standards such as 29 CFR 1910.261 (which incorporated ANSI Z35.1-1968 by reference). In the future, OSHA will provide a reference to the ANSI Z535.2-2007 standard on its website when referring to consensus standards and other recognized resources that may provide information and guidance concerning safety signage.
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 3: 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 Occupational Safety and Health (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 specifically 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.1
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. Please be aware that OSHA's enforcement guidance is subject to periodic review and clarification, amplification, or correction. Such guidance could also be affected by subsequent rulemaking. In the future, should you wish to verify that the guidance provided herein remains current, you may consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the OSHA Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
1 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 ]