Can OSHA enforce ANSI standards?

Since ANSI is a non-profit organization that accredits standards and not a government entity like OSHA, the standards put forth from them are generally not enforceable except for a few specific cases. In those few instances, OSHA can enforce ANSI standards which ultimately results in a more concrete understanding of what it means to be using best practices.

When a voluntary standard created by ANSI is recognized by OSHA, the government agency may decide to incorporate the standard into one of their enforceable regulations. For OSHA to be able enforce ANSI standards, they must adopt the standard by using a concept called “incorporation by reference.” To do this, OSHA will essentially add the ANSI standard into their own regulations by mentioning the standard and explicitly stating that those who do not comply will subsequently be fined to a certain degree.

ANSI standards can also be a bit tricky when OSHA is involved because they don’t always have be incorporated into a certain CFR document. OSHA can determine if the employer in question is complying with the general duty clause which requires the employer to take into account the best course of action in applying safety tactics to eliminate hazards. This can involve visual aid, training, testing, etc. Those hazards must be eliminated or mitigated and most importantly not ignored. If ANSI or another accredited standard organization’s golden standard isn’t acknowledged by an employer whose industry needs that guidance, then OSHA can cite them for not complying with the general duty clause.

ANSI and OSHA address similar topics when regarding their respective standards and regulations since they have the same overarching goal in keeping employees and others informed and safe in all types of environments. This goal is so ingrained in their purpose that between the two entities, they have a documented Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) illustrating their commitment in working together to meet those goals.


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