Occupational Safety and Health Act Guide for US Importers: An Overview

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Safety goggles and Helmet

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) sets safety requirements for various types of PPE, workwear, and other related products. Such products include face shields, safety glasses, N95 masks, helmets, and work shoes.

Ensuring compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act may require that you follow certain ANSI (or other) product standards, arrange lab testing, and issue certain documents – such as a safety manual.

Keep reading, and learn what American importers must know about the Occupational Safety and Health Act.


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What is the Occupational Safety and Health Act?

The OSH Act, which is supervised by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), sets out the safety requirements for workers’ personal protective equipment, occupational safety training, machinery guarding, and other aspects concerning the safety of the working place. The ultimate goal of the act is to ensure a safe and healthy working condition for workers in the United States.

In this guide, we mainly focus on the aspects of the OSH Act that are concerned with workers’ personal protective equipment, such as working clothes, safety shoes, and others.

Here we list the main categories of workers’ personal protective equipment that fall under the OSH Act:

  • Eyes and face protective equipment
  • Respiratory protective equipment
  • Head protective equipment
  • Feet protective equipment
  • Hands protective equipment
  • Electrical protective equipment

Products covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act

The OSH Act only covers equipment that is intended to be used for occupational purposes. Often, this equipment focuses on specific workplace hazards such as harmful chemicals, free-falling objects, electrical hazards, and others.

Below we list some product examples for each category of protective equipment covered by the OSH Act.

Eye and face protective equipment

  • Face shields
  • Safety glasses
  • Chemical splash goggles
  • Impact goggles

Respiratory protective equipment

  • N95 respirators
  • Full-face respirators
  • Dust mask respirators
  • Air-supplying respirators

Head, hands, and feet protective equipment

Electrical Protective Equipment

  • Insulating rubber blankets
  • Insulating rubber sleeves
  • Insulating rubber gloves

OSH Standards: 29 CFR 1910

29 CFR 1910 provides comprehensive Occupational Safety and Health Standards and guidelines concerning workplace safety, including personal protective equipment, handling of hazardous materials, noise exposure, fall dangers, and more.

In this section, we introduce some of the key standards concerning workers’ personal protective equipment.

1910.132 – General Requirements

1910.132 clarifies the general responsibility of both employer and employees. For example, employers are responsible for performing workplace hazards assessment. Also, they shall provide suitable protective equipment and training for all employees.

Conversely, the OSH Act clarifies that employees are responsible for equipment maintenance and sanitation.

1910.133 – Eye and Face Protection

Appropriate eye and face protection are essential for protection from flying particles, chemicals, or other potential hazards. This standard sets out the technical requirements for different work operations such as welding and torch brazing, and equipment characteristics, including filter lens thickness and minimum protective shade.

ANSI Standards

1910.133 requires that protective eye and face protection devices must comply with the following ANSI standard:

ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 – Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices

1910.134 – Respiratory Protection

Respirators are necessary to protect the employees from harmful dust, fog, smoke, or other atmospheric contamination. They might also be necessary to protect from viruses and bacteria, according to the work environment. As such, the 1910.134 standard requires employers to establish a respiratory protection program for their specific work environment.

The program shall include the procedures to ensure air quality, proper use of respirators, respirator effectiveness, and others. The program administrator shall also perform visual observation and evaluation on a regular basis.

When it comes to specific respirators’ performances, minimum filter efficiency requirements are set by the American National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Here some examples:

a. N95: must filter at least 95% of particles

b. N99: must filter at least 99% of particles

c. N100: must filter at least 99.97% of particles

NIOSH provides detailed requirements for respirators on 42 CFR Part 84, including the following:

  • Filter efficiency level
  • Airflow resistance
  • Filter identification
  • Labeling

NIOSH Test Methods

NIOSH relies on its own test methods such as:

  • Airflow resistance test
  • Exhalation valve leakage test
  • Filter efficiency level determination test

1910.135 – Head Protection

Safety helmets are essential for many industrial working environments, including construction, forestry, and mining. Employers are responsible for ensuring their employees wear a protective helmet when there are potential hazards at the workplace. The goal is to significantly reduce the level of injury to the head.

1910.135 specifies the technical requirement for head protection, including the following:

  • Lateral impact
  • Top-only impact
  • Helmet classification
  • Impact attenuation test
  • Penetration resistance test

ANSI Standards

Specifically, 1910.135 requires that head protection equipment must comply with the following standard:

ANSI Z89.1 – American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection

1910.136 – Foot Protection

Employers shall ensure their employees use protective footwear for workplace hazards such as electric shocks and rolling objects.

1910.136 sets out the technical requirements for foot protection including:

  • Impact resistance
  • Compression resistance
  • Conductive properties
  • Puncture resistance

More specifically, the standard requires that protective footwear must comply with one of the standards listed below.

ASTM Standards

a. ASTM F-2412 – Standard Test Methods for Foot Protection

b. ASTM F-2413 – Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective Footwear

ANSI Standards

ANSI Z41 – American National Standard for Personal Protection – Protective Footwear

1910.137 – Electrical Protective Equipment

1910.137 sets out safety requirements for electrical protective equipment such as rubber gloves and rubber insulating sleeves.

The standard sets out the following voltage requirements:

  • AC Proof-test requirements
  • DC Proof-test requirements
  • Glove tests-water level
  • Rubber insulating voltage requirements
  • Rubber insulating equipment test intervals

ASTM Standards

In particular, the standard requires the equipment to comply with one or more of the following standards:

a. ASTM F712-06 – Standard Test Methods and Specifications for Electrically Insulating Plastic Guard Equipment for Protection of Workers

b. ASTM D120-09 – Standard Specification for Rubber Insulating Gloves

c. ASTM D1051-08 – Standard Specification for Rubber Insulating Sleeves

d. ASTM F479-06 – Standard Specification for In-Service Care of Insulating Blankets

1910.138 – Hand Protection

1910.138 sets out the general requirements for workplace hand protective equipment, even if it doesn’t specify any specific ASTM or ANSI standards.

However, importers shall still ensure that the equipment is suitable for protecting the workers against hazards such as harmful substances, thermal burns, lacerations, and other potential hazards.

In this case, we recommend that importers refer to existing applicable standards to verify product safety, even if such a standards are voluntary. Below we include some examples.

ANSI Standards

a. ANSI/ISEA 138 – Performance and Classification for Impact-Resistant Gloves

b. ANSI/ISEA 105 – Hand Protection Classification

Documentation

In this section, we outline the documentation requirements for products covered by the OSH Act.

Safety Manual

The OHS Act requires a safety manual to indicate potential hazards, prevention control, emergency procedures, and more safety aspects when using the equipment. Importers shall ensure that all appropriate measurements and evaluations are included in the manual, and updating the manual when it’s necessary.

In general, the safety manual shall include the following information (if they are relevant to the specific product):

  • Operating procedures
  • Potential hazards
  • Precautions to workplace hazards
  • Medical instructions
  • Safety data sheets (only relevant for products that might contain hazardous chemical substances)

Test Report

A valid test report is the only way to demonstrate product compliance in accordance with relevant mandatory or voluntary standards, such as ASTM or ANSI standards. In general, a test report shall include the following information:

  • Testing company
  • Manufacturer/importer name
  • Product identification
  • List of testing standards
  • Test result

NRTL Certification

A Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) is an organization authorized by OSHA to test and certify specific equipment that falls under the OSH Act. However, note that personal protective equipment does not require NRTL certification. There are only 37 types of products that require it, including the following:

  • Electrical conductors or equipment
  • Fire detection devices
  • Scaffolds
  • Hoisting machines

Importers shall visit the OSHA’s official website to check whether their product needs NRTL certification.

Labeling

In this section, we introduce the main labeling requirements of the OSH Act.

Traceability

The OSH Act recommends adding traceability information to the product or packaging label to facilitate product recalls, production tracking, and component replacement. Here some example of such information:

  • Importer name and address
  • Importer contact details
  • Batch number or model number

Also, note that for certain equipment, the associated ASTM/ANSI standards might also set specific traceability requirements. For example, ANSI Z87.1 provides traceability requirements for eye and face protection equipment.

Classification Labels

ANSI, ASTM, and OSH Act standards might also set out the classification requirements on specific equipment, in order to inform the user of their protection level.

For example, ANSI Z87.1 standard requires that eyes and face protective equipment must bear a label that includes the device’s protection ability against specific hazards. Below we list some classification examples for eyewear:

  • Impact or non-impact
  • Rate of ultra-violet filter
  • Rate of Infra-read filter
  • Rate of welding filter
  • “D3” mark for droplets and splashes protection
  • “D4” mark for dust protection
  • “D5” mark for fine dust protection

As another example, 1910.137 standard sets out the labeling requirements for different types of electrical protective equipment, including rubber insulating blankets, matting, covers, line hose, gloves, and sleeves. Importers shall label their equipment in accordance with its electrical protective properties, such as:

a. Class 00 (Maximum use voltage of 500 volts AC/proof tested to 2,500 volts AC and 10,000 volts DC)

b. Class 0 (Maximum use voltage of 1,000 volts AC/proof tested to 5,000 volts AC and 20,000 volts DC)

c. Class 1 (Maximum use voltage of 7,500 volts AC/proof tested to 10,000 volts AC and 40,000 volts DC)

d. Class 2 (Maximum use voltage of 17,000 volts AC/proof tested to 20,000 volts AC and 50,000 volts DC)

e. Class 3 (Maximum use voltage of 26,500 volts AC/proof tested to 30,000 volts AC and 60,000 volts DC)

f. Class 4 (Maximum use voltage of 36,000 volts AC/proof tested to 40,000 volts AC and 70,000 volts DC)

Lab Testing

The OSH Act often requires compliance with specific standards, such as ANSI or ASTM. Thus, importers shall appoint a testing company to conduct relevant tests.

Here are some reputable testing companies that offer testing for products covered by the OSH Act:

  • QIMA
  • SGS
  • TUV
  • Intertek
  • (USA & EU)

    We Help Brands & Importers With Product Compliance (US & EU)

    • Product Requirements Lists
    • Product Certification
    • Product & Packaging Labeling
    • Lab Testing

    BOOK A FREE CONSULTATION


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