- OSH Act:
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.
July 28, 2014
10035 S. Western Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60643-1925
Dear Ms. Fischer:
This letter is in response to your letter dated March 7, 2014, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This letter was forwarded to OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) for response. You had two questions: one was related to the hazards of employees working extended, late night shifts and the other to light pollution hazards caused by industrial light sources.
This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed below and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased questions and our replies follow:
Background: Concerning the hazards of extended, late night shift work, you described your concerns that "shiftwork that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans." You also stated that research has linked other serious diseases to late night shift work, such as type 2 diabetes.
With regard to light pollution concerns, you stated that the use of industrial and business lighting and streetlights during the night causes harm to the general population and adds a glare to nighttime drivers' eyes. You noted that many municipal streetlights are now using high blue/bright white spectrum lights, and that these lights are harmful to the environment and people's health.
Question 1: Does OSHA train and regulate employers to provide fair warning to their employees about the risks of shift work?
Response: With regard to employer training, OSHA does not train employers on hazards related to late night and extended unusual shifts. However, OSHA encourages employers to perform a hazard analysis of its jobsite. It offers free consultations to assist employers with conducting these analyses, and in developing and implementing effective workplace safety and health management systems that emphasize the prevention of worker injuries and illnesses. OSHA's comprehensive consultation assistance includes a hazard survey of the worksite and an appraisal of all aspects of the employer's existing safety and health management system. More information on jobsite hazard analysis can be found at: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3071.html
In addition, OSHA acknowledges that in many industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, construction, maritime, and emergency response operations, potential hazards to employees arise during night shifts. OSHA's guidance for employers and workers on addressing hazards common in unusual or late night shifts can be found at: www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/faq_longhours.html (OSHA's FAQs on Extended Unusual Work Shifts)
Additionally, please see the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's publications and guidance on unusual and late night shifts. This information can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/workschedules/
With respect to regulations, there are no specific OSHA regulations or standards addressing employers' efforts to raise awareness on the risks of shift work. However, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act's general duty clause, employers have a legal duty to furnish to each of its employees employment and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. 29 U.S.C. § 654(a)(1).
Question 2: Can OSHA train and regulate employers about the basics of minimizing light pollution from the workplace, especially with the use of blue-rich/bright white LEDs, light trespass, skyglow, glare, etc?
Response: No. With respect to training, OSHA does not train employers on light pollution. With respect to regulation, as above, while there is no on-point regulation, OSHA does enforce the Acts' general duty clause where warranted.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry and Agricultural Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs