OSHA Instruction STD 1-6.5 June 20, 1994 Directorate of Compliance Programs
Subject: Exemption for Religious Reasons from Wearing Hard Hats
A. Purpose. The purpose of this instruction is to establish
Occupational Safety and Health Administration policy on the subject
B. Scope. This instruction applies OSHA-wide.
C. Cancellations. This instruction cancels the following:
1. OSHA Instruction STD 1-6.3, January 31, 1978, Exemption from
Wearing Hard Hats, Old Order Amish and Sikh Dharma Brotherhood.
2. OSHA Notice CPL 2, November 5, 1990, Cancellation of an OSHA
3. Memorandum, July 24, 1991, for All Regional Administrators
regarding Exemption from Wearing Hard Hats for Religious Reasons.
D. Action. OSHA Regional Administrators shall ensure that field
staff apply the guidelines of this instruction when employees object, due to
personal religious convictions, to wearing hard hats in the workplace.
E. Federal Agencies. This instruction describes a change that
affects Federal agencies. Executive Order 12196, Section 1-201, and 29 CFR
1960.16, maintains that Federal agencies must also follow the enforcement
policy and procedures contained in this instruction.
F. Federal Program Change. This instruction describes a Federal
Program Change which affects State Programs. Each Regional Administrator
1. Ensure that this change is forwarded promptly to each State
designee, using a format consistent with the Plan Change Two-way Memorandum
in Appendix P, OSHA Instruction STP 2.22, CH-3.
2. Explain the content of this change to the State designee, as
3. Advise the State designees that they are encouraged, but are
not required, to adopt this change.
4. Ensure that State designees are asked to acknowledge receipt of
this Federal program change in writing to the Regional Administrator as soon
as the State's intention is known, but not later than 70 calendar days after
the date of issuance (10 days for mailing and 60 days for response). This
acknowledgment must include (if the State decides to adopt the change) a
description either of the State's plan to follow the guidelines in paragraph
H to implement the change, or alternative guidelines.
5. Review policies instructions and guidelines issued by the State
to determine that this change has been communicated to State compliance
1. On October 30, 1978, OSHA Instruction STD 1-6.3, Exemption from
Wearing Hard Hats, was issued. This instruction superseded Field Information
Memorandum #75-11 dated February 4, 1975. The instruction provided an
exemption from citations for hard hat violations for employers when their
workers, who were members of the Old Order Amish or Sikh Dharma Brotherhood
religious communities, failed to wear hard hats due to their personal
2. On November 5, 1990, OSHA Notice CPL 2, Cancellation of an OSHA
Instruction, was issued to cancel OSHA Instruction STD 1-6.3. This notice
was issued following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Employment
Division, Department of Human Resources v. Smith, 110 S.Ct. 1595 (1990)
(the peyote case), which held the Free Exercise of Religion Clause of the
First Amendment of the United States Constitution does not relieve any
individual of the obligation to comply with a neutral, generally applicable
law, notwithstanding the dictates of the individual's religious
3. On July 24, 1991, a memorandum for All Regional Administrators
from the Director of Compliance Programs was issued that withdrew the above
November 5, 1990 notice. This memorandum reinstated OSHA's policy concerning
the exemption from wearing hard hats, and broadened it to any employee who
for religious reasons objected to wearing hard hats in the workplace. This
broadening was due to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which
prohibits the Government from giving special preferences to any religious
4. On November 16, 1993, President Clinton signed into law the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, P.L. 103-141 (RFRA).
a. RFRA contains findings that laws "neutral" toward religion
may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with
religious exercise, and that governments should not substantially burden
religious exercise without compelling justification.
b. RFRA restores the compelling interest test as set forth in
Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder,
406 U.S. 205 (1972); guarantees its application in all cases where free
exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and provides a claim or
defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by
c. Under RFRA, Federal, State and local governments may not
substantially burden a person's exercise of religion unless they demonstrate
that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a
compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of
furthering that compelling governmental interest.
5. OSHA has decided to grant an exemption from citations to
employers of employees who, for reasons of personal religious convictions,
object to wearing hard hats in the workplace. There may be, however,
circumstances in the future that would involve a hard hat hazard sufficiently
grave to raise a compelling governmental interest for requiring the wearing
of hard hats, notwithstanding employee personal religious
H. Effective Date. This instruction is effective immediately and
will remain in effect until canceled or superseded.
I. Guidelines. OSHA staff shall adhere to the following guidelines.
a. There shall be no citations or other enforcement actions
against employers for violations of hard hat standards when their employees
fail to wear hard hats due to personal religious convictions.
b. Citations may be issued to employers of construction workers,
with such convictions, for failure to instruct them about overhead hazards,
as required by 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(2), as with employers of construction
workers without such objections.
c. Employers of non-construction workers, with or without such
convictions, should also instruct their workers about such hazards.
d. All instances of an employee's refusal to wear a hard hat, or
any other personal protective equipment, due to the employee's personal
religious conviction, shall be reported to the Regional Office so that such
instances of refusal can be monitored.
e. Whenever a citation is being considered because of an
employee's refusal to use personal protective equipment (other than a hard
hat) due to a personal religious conviction, the National Office shall be
contacted prior to the issuance of the citation.
Joseph A. Dear Assistant Secretary
Distribution: National, Regional and Area Offices All Compliance Officers
State Designees NIOSH Regional Program Directors Consultation Project Manager