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.


[February 22, 2011]


Richard A. Eichel, CSP
ATA Safety
1478 5th St. MS 7000
Arnold AFB, TN 37389

Dear Mr. Eichel:

Thank you for your November 29, 2010, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in which you ask whether OSHA will adopt and enforce the latest American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) standards regarding accident prevention signs and physical hazard marking. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence.

Background: ANSI Z35.1-1968 (Specifications for Accident Prevention Signs) is incorporated by reference into 29 CFR 1910.6(e)(59). ANSI Z53.1-1967 (Safety Color Code for Marking Physical Hazards) is incorporated by reference into 29 CFR 1910.145(d)(2), (4), and (6). Both ANSI standards have become inactive and replaced by new standards (ANSI Z535.2 and ANSI Z535.1-6, respectively). The new ANSI standards, however, have not been adopted or incorporated by reference into an OSHA standard.

Question 1: Is OSHA going to update the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to reflect the newer ANSI standards? And, if so, when?

Response: At this time, neither 29 CFR 1910.144 (Safety Color Code for Marking Physical Hazards) nor 1910.145 Specifications for Accident Prevention Signs and Tags) is on the Agency's Unified Regulatory Agenda to be updated. Revision of these sections will be considered in the future as priorities and resources permit.

Question 2: In the meantime, is OSHA going to incorporate/adopt the newer ANSI standards by letter of interpretation until the CFR is changed?

Response: OSHA cannot adopt new consensus standards via letters of interpretation. Adopting new consensus standards can only be done through rulemaking, which is a resource-intensive process. Interpretation letters explain existing OSHA requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations.

OSHA will continue to reference the ANSI Z35.1-68 and ANSI Z53.1-67 standards when enforcing workplace safety. Employers are allowed, however, to comply with the most current consensus standards applicable to their operations, rather than with the OSHA standard in effect at the time of inspection, when the employer's action provides equal or greater employee protection. So long as the standards used by the employer provide such protection, a violation where the employer is not in compliance with OSHA's standards but is in compliance with the new standards may be considered de minimis and not be cited.

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 www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.



Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

[Corrected on 7/1/2011]