In Brief

  • OSHA requirements are more extensive than what is contained in the Code of Federal Regulations parts 1910, 1926, 1915 and 1917.

  • Several hundred consensus and industry standards are also the law through a process called incorporation by reference.

  • Standards incorporated by reference include additional inspection, training, management, maintenance and other requirements that are often overlooked.

OSH professionals can find the following sentence in OSHA standards for general industry (29 CFR Part 1910.6), construction (29 CFR 1926.6), shipyard employment (29 CFR Part 1915.5) and marine terminals (29 CFR Part 1917.3): "The standards of agencies of the U.S. government, and organizations which are not agencies of the U.S. government which are incorporated by reference in this part, have the same force and effect as other standards in this part." What does this mean?

The noted paragraphs are a list of the consensus standards written primarily by industry that OSHA has adopted as the law, officially called incorporation by reference (IBR). The OSH Act was signed into law Dec. 29, 1970, by President Richard Nixon. At Section 6(a), the OSH Act authorized the U.S. Secretary of Labor to adopt other federal standards and national consensus standards for a period of 2 years without having to go through the official rulemaking process.

Congress decided that since national consensus standards were written by highly knowledgeable, experienced professionals and had gone through a comprehensive review process, adopting these standards would simplify standards promulgation and provide immediate protection for America's workforce.

This new agency (OSHA) chose to adopt several hundred of these other standards, and those adopted standards are incorporated into the law by means of a specific OSHA standard referring to that adopted standard.

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