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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 https://www.osha.gov.
August 4, 2021
John M. Dugan
Nielsen, Zehe & Antas, P.C.
55 West Monroe Street
Chicago, Illinois 60603
Dear Mr. Dugan:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), regarding the design of machinery and equipment. In your letter, you seek advice from OSHA on the steps a manufacturer should take to design products that meet OSHA requirements. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation only of the requirements herein, and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated in your original correspondence. Your paraphrased questions, and our responses, follow.
Question 1: Should a manufacturer of machinery or equipment first select which OSHA standards apply to its machine and then design its machine to comply with the applicable OSHA standards?
Response: It is not appropriate for OSHA to give manufacturers advice on how to design machinery or equipment. OSHA’s answers to your questions are limited to information on OSHA’s authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 29 U.S.C. § 651 et seq. (the OSH Act or the Act). In the OSH Act, Congress granted OSHA (among other things) the authority to enforce employers’ compliance with the Act’s general duty clause, which requires employers to“furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees,” and with the occupational safety and health standards promulgated under the Act (i.e., standards “which requires conditions, or the adoption or use of one or more practices, means, methods, operations, or processes, reasonably necessary or appropriate to provide safe or healthful employment and places of employment”). 29 U.S.C. §§ 652-659.
Thus, under the Act, employers are responsible for complying with the general duty clause and OSHA’s standards. Whether an employer has met these requirements can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis, as there are a myriad of hazardous conditions to which employees can be exposed. However, in general, employers must ensure the products being used at their workplaces are safe, and may have to verify that products meet the design and safety requirements provided in applicable industry consensus standards, such as consensus standards issued by the American Nationals Standards Institute (ANSI) or ASTM International, formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials.
Some OSHA standards contain specific requirements for ensuring that machinery or equipment meets certain specifications or are free from defect. For example, the personal fall protection standard, 29 C.F.R. § 1910.140, provides that it “establishes performance, care, and use criteria for all personal fall protection systems, , , used to comply with [29 C.F.R. Pt. 1910].” As another example, the powered industrial truck standard, 29 C.F.R. § 1910.178, among other things, requires that “[a]ll new powered industrial trucks acquired and used by an employer shall meet the design and construction requirements for powered industrial trucks established in the ‘American National Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks, Part II, ANSI B56.1-1969’, which is incorporated by reference as specified in § 1910.6, except for vehicles intended primarily for earth moving or over-the-road hauling,” and contains specific requirements for when “approved” power-operated industrial trucks must be used.1 Employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards (and the general duty clause) to protect their workers from occupational safety and health hazards.
Finally, under Section 18 of the OSH Act, states that wish to develop and enforce their own occupational safety and health standards may do so by submitting a “State [P]lan for the development of such standards and their enforcement” to federal OSHA. 29 U.S.C. § 667. Once federal OSHA grants a State Plan final approval, federal OSHA relinquishes its authority to cover occupational safety and health matters that are covered by the State Plan. State Plans must have standards and enforcement programs that are at least as effective as OSHA’s, but are permitted by the OSH Act to have more stringent or additional requirements than federal OSHA (including requirements for ensuring that machinery or equipment meets certain specifications or are free from defect).
Question 2: If the machine to be manufactured is a powered industrial truck, is it sufficient for the manufacturer to consider the requirements contained in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.178 only, and no other OSHA standards, in designing the truck?
Question 3: If there is an existing consensus standard incorporated by reference in an OSHA standard (as in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.178, see above), is it sufficient for the manufacturer to consider that consensus standard only, and no other consensus standards, in designing its machinery or equipment?
Question 4: If a consensus standard incorporated by reference in an OSHA standard references other consensus standards, is it sufficient for the manufacturer to consider the referenced consensus standards only, and no other consensus standards, in designing its machinery or equipment?
Question 5: If there is an existing consensus standard incorporated by reference in an OSHA standard (as in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.178, see above), must the manufacturer consider other OSHA standards that also incorporate that consensus standard by reference?
Question 6: When designing a machine, how can a manufacturer be assured which OSHA regulations are applicable to its machine?
Response to Questions 2 through 6: As stated in the response to Question 1, it is not appropriate for OSHA to give manufacturers advice on how to design machinery or equipment; OSHA’s answers to your questions are limited to information on OSHA’s authority under the OSH Act; employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards and the general duty clause to protect their workers from occupational safety and health hazards; and State Plans must have standards and enforcement programs that are at least as effective as OSHA’s, but are permitted by the OSH Act to have more stringent or additional requirements than federal OSHA. Where 29 C.F.R. § 1910.178 applies, employers are required to comply with that standard.
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 any questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100.
Kim Stille, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
 As used in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.178, “the term, approved truck or approved industrial truck means a truck that is listed or approved for fire safety purposes for the intended use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, using nationally recognized testing standards.” The standard also instructs the regulated community to refer to 29 C.F.R. § 1910.155(c)(3)(iv)(A) for the definition of listed, and to 29 C.F.R. § 1910.7 for the definition of nationally recognized testing laboratory. For more information about OSHA’s nationally recognized testing laboratory (NRTL) program, please see OSHA’s NRTL Program webpage, https://www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/index.html.