OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) are both important organizations focused on keeping workers safe. While there is overlap between the two, their roles are different.
OSHA is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor charged with setting and enforcing safety regulations in the workplace. OSHA also provides training, outreach, education and assistance to workers in order to increase awareness and understanding of these regulations. OSHA regulations are governing law and therefore mandatory, meaning all workplaces and employers must comply. Those who do not comply can face serious consequences, including citations and hefty fines. OSHA regulations are established to ensure safe working conditions. Due to the lengthy process involved in making updates, they often fall short of delivering the most comprehensive and up-to-date safety information.
ANSI is a non-governmental body which exists to promote and facilitate voluntary consensus standards (guidelines that are universally accepted). Some of these standards are aimed at improving worker safety on the job, such as the Z359 series for fall protection. ANSI standards are recommended guidelines which better represent the thinking of industry experts. They are more in-depth than OSHA regulations, generally more current and require revision or reaffirmation every five years. A significant number of ANSI recommendations relate to fall arrest equipment and PPE, acting to fill the gaps in OSHA’s fall protection regulations. There are cases where OSHA does not have published rules which address specific issues, so they often look to manufacturer guidelines. ANSI standards serve to fill those holes with best-practice, easy-to-understand guidelines.
ANSI standards are not mandatory and following them is not required by law. While manufacturers and employers can choose to ignore ANSI standards without facing any monetary penalty, doing so could place worker safety in jeopardy.
Even though OSHA and ANSI are separate organizations, the regulations and standards related to safety and health are of paramount consideration for both. In that sense, they are deeply intertwined and should be used together to enhance and strengthen the safety of workers. Worksites that truly put safety first are known to actively follow all relevant OSHA regulations and ANSI standards.