ANSI Standard Enforceablility

Can an OSHA inspector write a citation based on non-compliance with an ANSI standard?


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Q. I would like to follow-up on some information you provided in the January 2006 EH&S Clinic (OSHA Regulations Regarding Safety Showers and Eyewash stations (OSHA Regulations Regarding Safety Showers and Eyewash Stations). You mentioned that OSHA refers to the ANSI [American National Standards Institute] Z358.1 standard for emergency eyewash and shower equipment. Can an OSHA inspector write a citation based on non-compliance with an ANSI standard? T.S.

 

A. It’s understandable that this question would come up. ANSI standards become mandatory only when formally adopted by OSHA. OSHA has not adopted any version of Z358.1 and does not enforce it. OSHA has stated this position in at least three guidance letters written on 3/28/2002, 4/18/2002 and 11/1/2002. OSHA guidance letters may be searched at: www.osha.gov (click on “Interpretations”).

Also, OSHA should not issue a “General Duty” clause citation against this ANSI standard as a “drenching/flushing” regulation exists as noted above. However, do not be surprised that some OSHA inspectors may need to be educated about the existence of the above referenced guidance letters and OSHA’s position. When OSHA inspectors provide alternate (frequently unwritten) interpretations, you may want to consider legal counsel and challenge their interpretation.

The OSHA compliance requirement is 29 CFR 1910.151(c) which states,” Where eyes or body may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing ... shall be provided ...for immediate emergency use.” They must also follow any state and/or local protection requirements.

However, should someone be injured and an emergency eyewash or safety shower failed, an OSHA inspector would refer to the ANSI standard when evaluating whether or not the emergency eyewash or safety shower is “suitable” for worker protection at the facility. So this is the “gray” area of this issue—while the ANSI standard is not specifically enforced since it has not specifically been adopted by OSHA, if an emergency eyewash or safety shower fails, the ANSI standard will likely be used by OSHA to determine the “suitability” of these fixtures.

OSHA has incorporated by reference more than 100 industrial codes, standards and procedures. In addition to dozens of ANSI standards, documents from American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), American Petroleum Institute (API), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), Compressed Gas Association (CGA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and others are enforceable as OSHA regulations. These materials may be found through 29 CFR 1910.6.

Returning to the ANSI Z358.1 standard, in addition to specifying “tepid flushing fluid” (discussed in detail in January), full adoption of the ANSI standard also expands the scope of covered chemicals from OSHA’s “injurious corrosive” to any compound having the capability to have adverse effects on the health and safety of humans.


Several issues that you should consider regarding emergency eyewash and showers include:

  • What is the impact if supplied water temperature is outside of the ANSI tepid (60–100°F) range?
  • What is the feasibility of providing tempered water?
  • Consider the frequency of personnel handling corrosive (and perhaps other) injurious materials.
  • Consider facility’s OSHA-compliance history; repeat violators may be more scrutinized, held to a “higher standard,” and penalized more severely, even when the violations are unre-lated
  • Always acknowledge extreme environ- ments (such as very hot or very cold work environment temperatures) when they occur and incorporate tempered fluid into the system design.

Furthermore, the 2006 International Plumbing Code, Section 411, already incorporates the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA)/ANSI Z358.1 and tempering is mandatory for new construction in any jurisdiction that specifies this plumbing code. Plumbing codes are typically not retroactive and do not require changes to existing equipment unless there is significant renovation of the existing facility.

Lastly, I need to correct information contained in the January article; the ANSI standard states that the plumbed equipment should be activated WEEKLY, not monthly as reported, to verify that flushing fluid is available.

The bottom line is that each facility needs to review its risks and liabilities and decide how to provide “suitable” protection to its employees regarding safety showers and emergency eyewashes and the ANSI standard provides good guidelines to do so.
 

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