OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) Regulations vs. ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Standards

Many organizations struggle to understand the difference between OSHA regulations and ANSI standards in practice – or worse, not realize their safety and/or signage is non-compliant. A critical difference boils down to enforceable regulations versus voluntary standards.

Here is the basic takeaway of what you need to know: OSHA is a government entity charged with detailing and enforcing safety standards. As such, failure to comply with an OSHA regulation could result in steep penalties.

ANSI, on the other hand, operates in an independent capacity and lacks the enforcement aspect to dictate the use of its suggested practices. This is a double-edged sword: without being subject to regulatory oversight, it can continuously improve its standards and factor in the latest best practices on a rolling basis. Yet without the rule of law to enforce it, organizations can disregard its guidance.

Many OSHA regulations address similar topics as ANSI standards (e.g., fall protection), but where ANSI standards are voluntary, OSHA regulations are law.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a governmental agency that was created by Congress in 1971 as a subset of the Department of Labor. Contrary to ANSI, OSHA’s mission is to assure safe working conditions for employees by “setting and enforcing standards”. This enforcement aspect of OSHA is its primary distinction from ANSI.

It has been cited that ANSI Standards can become mandatory although ANSI Standards are voluntary. They may become mandatory through a process called incorporation by reference.

“Incorporation by reference” is a fancy term for a simple process. It happens when an OSHA standard cites the ANSI Standard and says that you have to follow it. In effect, the ANSI Standard becomes part of the law.

At Spencer-SHE our team of experts has over 50 years of experience assisting clients with regulation compliance and agency correspondence.

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