Are ANSI standards mandatory?

ANSI is a volunteer-based organization made up of industry representatives, policy makers, and technical experts that create and accredit standards which are proven to keep people safe from harm. However, ANSI is not classified as a government regulated organization like OSHA. This means that ANSI’s standards are mere guidelines as the organization has no weight in enforcing rules and regulations like their counterpart. Because of this, people might believe that the choice is easy; that ANSI standards are not mandatory at all, but it’s a little bit more complicated since companies can potentially still be cited for not utilizing ANSI standards. Sorting out these misconceptions may seem like a daunting task but there is good reason for this complicated relationship between ANSI and government entities like OSHA.

OSHA & ANSI Standards

ANSI has become such a trusted organization regarding safety standards that OSHA has chosen to adopt some of these standards and subsequently has made them required by law. This is the first instance where ANSI standards become enforceable, it is known as “incorporation by reference.”

OSHA is known for providing very general guidelines and employers are tasked in meeting those standards without very clear instructions; instead the employer must pick the best practice method for their situation. This is one of the more confusing topics for citation. To adhere to the best practice ideology, the employer must consider other existing consensus standards in reference to the OSHA regulation that they intend to comply with. If OSHA thinks that the employer hasn’t taken reasonable steps in complying with safety standards, the company can be cited for not following those voluntary ANSI standards since they have been declared the safest option for workers by experts.

The other instance where a company can be cited for not following those seemingly voluntary standards is if OSHA considers the employer to not have complied with the “general duty” clause. This is essentially if the government agency thinks that an employer has not taken it upon themselves to adopt standards that will eliminate or reduce all recognizable hazards in the workplace.

 

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