Feature Article: Find Out More About Workplace Safety Regulations

Posted on 10/12/2011 by James Griffin

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is less than 30 pages long, and the regulations enforcing the law are just over 1,500 more. These laws and rules describe an employer’s obligation to provide a safe work environment for his or her employees, to eliminate hazards where possible, and to mitigate hazards that cannot be removed. But the Standards cannot cover every conceivable situation. So, if you are unsure how the workplace safety rules apply to your site, what do you do? 
Letters of Interpretation
If you have a fair idea of what hazards you are dealing with, or which Standards may apply, you can contact OSHA and ask them what they think. The Administration will respond in a letter of interpretation, stating how the law applies to your case. OSHA keeps an archive of these letters on its Web site, going back to 1972. 
It is important to keep in mind several things regarding letters of interpretation. First, letters never replace regulations. An inspector will evaluate the circumstances at your workplace against the rule in 29 CFR, not the letter. It is also important to know that each interpretive letter is a response to a specific scenario and may not be fully transferrable to other situations or establishments.
Always review a body of letters for consensus and trends, but not necessarily actionable items.
Sometimes, OSHA doesn’t wait for you to ask them how to apply a Standard. Or the Administration get asked the same question often enough and decide to issue a “Compliance Directive.” While these Directives technically tell OSHA inspectors what to look for at a site, employers can use them to know what the inspectors are interested in this year, and how to show it to them. 
Safety & Health Topics
OSHA also publishes many other guidance documents, alerts, fact sheets, and references on how to comply with safety standards or to identify and mitigate occupational hazards for which there are no official Standards. These publications are organized under OSHA’s Safety & Health Topics
OSHA Quick Takes
Quick Takes is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s own semimonthly newsletter. With a free subscription you can receive the latest news about workplace safety initiatives and compliance tools directly from OSHA.
The Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission (OSHRC)
The OSHRC is a unique Federal court that decides appeals to OSHA citations. The decisions of the OSHRC are not regulations or Standards, but like all court rulings they can have significant impact on how OSHA enforces its Standards and how regulated businesses are expected to comply. 
Closing Thoughts
It is always a good idea to review your research (letters, guidance documents, etc.) with your legal counsel before changing or implementing workplace practices to be sure that your plans are consistent with the statute and regulations and are defensible.

Tags: best, osha, practices

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

I had a positive experience utilizing this educational program. It was very informative, convenient, and rewarding from a career perspective.

John Gratacos

Logistics Manager

The instructor kept the class engaged and made learning fun. There was a lot of information to cover but time flew by. I will definitely use Lion in the future!

Chelsea Minguela

Hazmat Shipping Professional

As always, Lion never disappoints

Paul Resley

Environmental Coordinator

We have a very busy work schedule and using Lion enables us to take the course at our own time. It makes it easy for me to schedule my employees' training.

Timothy Mertes

Hazmat Shipping Professional

I tried other environmental training providers, but they were all sub-standard compared to Lion. I will not stray from Lion again!

Sara Sills

Environmental Specialist

Excellent class, super instructor, very easy to follow. No rushing through material. Would like to take his class again.

Lawrence Patterson

EH&S Facility Maintenance & Security Manager

You blew the doors off the competition!

Stephen Bieschke

Facilities Manager

The course was very well structured and covered the material in a clear, concise manner.

Ian Martinez

Hazmat Shipping Professional

Very well structured, comprehensive, and comparable to live training seminars I've participated in previously. I will recommend the online course to other colleagues with training requirement needs.

Neil Luciano

EHS Manager

Lion courses always set the bar for content, reference, and practical application. Membership and access to the experts is an added bonus.

John Brown, CSP

Director of Safety & Env Affairs

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Use this guide as a quick reference to the most common HAZWOPER questions, and get course recommendations for managers and personnel who are in need of OSHA-required HAZWOPER training.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.