OSHA Committee Approves Updated Warning Signs

By Roy Maurer Mar 25, 2013

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) construction advisory committee approved a proposal to allow employers to post warning signs that follow the latest standards adopted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health met March 18, 2013, in Washington, D.C., and unanimously approved a proposed rule to update OSHA’s standard on accident-prevention signs and tags in construction. The regulation requires that signs and symbols be visible at all times to warn workers of existing hazards when work is being performed.

OSHA’s current requirements reference standards adopted more than 40 years ago, rather than the standards that ANSI approved in 2011.

Witnesses told the committee that many employers continue to post and buy signs that meet the old standards, instead of using signs that meet the latest standards. If the proposed rule change is adopted, employers could keep their existing signs on display and purchase ones that meet the old or new standard, said Ken Stevanus, a staff member of OSHA’s Directorate of Standards and Guidance.

He said that OSHA will not cite or penalize employers who continue to post the old warning signs.

Stevanus told the committee that the agency determined that the new ANSI standards meet the requirement of being “at least as effective as” the old ANSI standards referred to in OSHA’s regulations.

Grandfathering the old signs means there is no additional cost for employers, Stevanus said.

Geoffrey Peckham, chairman of the ANSI committee that drafted the new standards, told the committee that the updates make numerous improvements to warning signs, including more panels, more detailed descriptions of hazards and increased use of illustrations.

“That is especially helpful for workers who do not read English,” Peckham said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

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