Machine Safety: consensus standards and OSHA compliance

In our plant we comply 100% with the OSHA regulations of 29 CFR for machine guarding and personnel safety. Accordingly, OSHA would have no grounds to cite us for violations, right?


Hey, in our plant we comply 100% with the OSHA regulations of 29 CFR for machine guarding and personnel safety. Accordingly, OSHA would have no grounds to cite us for violations – right?

OSHA logo


In fact, there is no guarantee! Here’s why in my opinion:

OSHA openly considers their regulations to be the law and they frequently use the term “de minimis” which is to say “the bare minimum.” Because of this situation they also acknowledge that their regulations are mostly 30 to 40 years dated and that certain consensus standards represent state-of-the-art machine guarding thinking. Understanding that, OSHA has the capability to step beyond its own regulations in two important ways:


a. “Incorporation by Reference” is specifically listed by OSHA at 29 CFR 1910.6 where they list over 100 “incorporated by reference” consensus standards. Some of these consensus standards are also fairly old. However, they have been ruled to be enforceable as OSHA regulations.

b. OSHA reserves the right to issue citations for violations under the General Duty Clause [(5) (a) (1)] and referencing consensus standards evidencing that certain hazard(s) are present and that there are various means available to mitigate those hazard(s). Since consensus standards have update cycles generally of every three to five years many of these standards have added the risk assessment requirement (hazard identification) and mitigation steps for reducing the identified hazards. Therefore, in my opinion the General Duty Clause has grown in strength over the past ten years regarding OSHA’s ability to use this Clause for enforcement of violations.


It would be very interesting to see how active OSHA has been over the past 10 years using the “Incorporation by Reference” and/or the “General Duty Clause” as tools for citing violations under their enforcement capability. Please let us know if you’ve seen or heard of this activity in industry. If you do respond, please do not include any confidential information or company names.


J.B. Titus, CFSEYour comments or suggestion are always welcome so please let us know your thoughts. Submit your ideas, experiences, and challenges on this subject in the comments section below. Click on the following text if you don't see a comments box, then scroll down: Machine Safety: consensus standards and OSHA compliance.


Related articles:

OSHA regulations of 29 CFR

“Incorporation by Reference” - 29 CFR 1910.6

OSHA’s - General Duty Clause [(5) (a) (1)]

Machine Safety – functional safety & the steps to be compliant in the US.

Machine Safety Compliance


Contact: for “Solutions for Machine Safety”.

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