OSHA standards are rules that describe the methods that employers must use to protect their employees from hazards. There are OSHA standards for Construction work, Agriculture, Maritime operations, and General Industry, which are the standards that apply to most worksites. These standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to, require the use of certain safe practices and equipment, and require employers to monitor hazards and keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses.
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is an annual codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. It is divided into 50 “titles,” of which is Title 29 assigned to the Department of Labor; therefore, the OSHA standards, called “Parts,” are:
- Part 1910 is assigned to General Industry. Includes topics such as hazard communication, walking-working surfaces, PPE, powered platforms, hazardous materials, confined space safety, and noise exposure.
- Part 1915 is assigned to Maritime. Includes topics such as welding, scaffolds, ladders, general working conditions, tools, rigging and material handling.
- Part 1917 is assigned to Maritime Terminals. Includes topics such as terminal operations, cargo handling gear, first aid and lifesaving facilities, terminal facilities.
- Part 1918 is assigned to Longshoring. Includes topics such as gangways, working surfaces, opening and closing hatches, cargo handling, vessel cargo handling gear, and gear certification.
- Part 1926 is assigned to Construction. Includes topics such as exit routes, environmental controls, walking-working surfaces, ladders, fall protection, hazardous materials, PPE, and permit-required confined spaces.
- Part 1928 is assigned to Agriculture. Includes topics such as safety for agricultural equipment, employee operating instruction, guarding farm field equipment, cotton gins, environmental controls, and occupational health.
The Rule-making Process. Before OSHA can issue a standard, it must go through an extensive and lengthy process that includes substantial public engagement, notice and comment periods. This is known as the OSHA Rulemaking Process.
The OSH Act covers most private sector employers and their workers, in addition to some public-sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. Those jurisdictions include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands.
The OSH Act encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs and precludes state enforcement of OSHA standards unless the state has an approved program. State Plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states rather than federal OSHA.
State-run safety and health programs must be at least as effective (ALAE) as the federal OSHA program. OSHA approves and monitors all state plans and provides as much as fifty percent of the funding for each program.
Currently, there are 22 states in which state plans are approved for private-sector and state and local government employees. An additional six states are approved for state and local government employees only.
Most Frequently Cited Standards
Every year, OSHA publishes its “Top 10” most frequently cited violations, and through the years, the same standards appear to be at or near the top of that list. OSHA frequently sees violations related to these regulations when conducting employer inspections and accident investigations. For more on the list, visit OSHA’s website.
- Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Fall Protection–Training Requirements (29 CFR 1926.503) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Eye and Face Protection (29 CFR 1926.102) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
Note that the Fall Protection and Hazard Communication standards are usually at or near the top of the list, so it makes sense to give these two programs top priority. However, because OSHA sees and cites the “Top-10” violations frequently, it’s smart safety management to make sure all of the “Top-10” programs are effective. After all, the following statement is true:“That which OSHA sees the most, is cited the most.”