by Angel Bright-Kendrick, CSP
Senior Safety Consultant

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. This law created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health regulatory standards. Compliance with regulatory standards is not just a legal obligation, but a fundamental commitment to the well-being of employees. Workplace safety is constantly evolving so it is essential for workplaces to maintain a level of adaptability to stay up to date as regulatory changes occur.

OSHA compliance is a Federal requirement for most private and some public sector employers and their workers. OSHA standards are rules that describe the methods employers are legally required to follow to protect their employees from hazards. However, the process for changing legal codes is complicated, and updates to OSHA standards occur less frequently when compared to consensus standards created by non-regulatory bodies.

What Are Consensus Standards?
Consensus standards are recommendations or best operating practices that are created by a group of experts that cannot be enforced unless adopted by a regulatory body. The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) has created standards for building construction, machine guarding, fall protection and personal protective equipment (PPE), to name a few. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has developed numerous standards to reduce the likelihood of injury due to fire, electrical shock and other related hazards. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) shares knowledge and works to develop skillsets across all engineering disciplines in order to improve workplace safety. ANSI, NFPA and ASME are some of the many organizations that create consensus standards. These organizations review and update consensus standards every 3 to 5 years and can incorporate new and improved safe work practices as workplaces change and emerging technologies are identified.

OSHA and Consensus Standards – Incorporation by Reference
OSHA recognizes that regulatory standards cannot be revised as quickly as improved safe work practices are identified. To ensure employers continue to protect employees from new and existing hazards, many consensus standards have been incorporated by reference. Incorporation by reference is the process of adopting consensus standards into the OSH Act, which gives them the same legal authority as existing OSHA standards. It is essential for employers to recognize and follow the consensus standards that have been incorporated by reference into the OSHA standards to continue maintaining employee safety in the workplace.

How Can We Help
The EI Group, Inc. is extremely knowledgeable and well versed in OSHA standards as well as the consensus standards of the organizations mentioned above and others. Should you have any questions regarding any safety standard or have other safety concerns, please contact Angel Bright-Kendrick, CSP at (502) 264-7215 or [email protected].