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OSHA Directives and Letters of Interpretation

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has received thousands of questions and requests for clarification about their occupational health and safety standards from employers, individuals, unions, and other organizations throughout the years. When OSHA responds to these questions, they typically do so though a Letter of Interpretation. These letters are posted on the OSHA website, and address many topics; they are a great resource for employers because they may answer your question(s) about a particular standard or topic. However, be aware that the letters only address the specific question asked, and may not apply to your exact situation. Also, the letters are strictly interpretations issues by OSHA, and do not alter the meaning of the actual OSHA standards.

Another valuable resource are OSHA Directives. There are various types of directives available on the OSHA website; of great use to those seeking a better understanding of OSHA requirements are Compliance Directives (CPL’s) and Standard Directives (STD’s). These documents instruct compliance officers on how to inspect employer compliance with certain OSHA standards in general, or may clarify compliance with a singular OSHA standard.

Some of the State Plan OSHA Programs also issues directives and letters of interpretation from time to time. These State OSHA Program directives and letters of interpretation may differ than Federal OSHA’s.