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October 9, 2012

OSHA Provides Expanded Information on Variance Procedures

OSHA has enhanced its Variances webpage to list both denied and approved requests and provide information on how employers can request a variance from an OSHA workplace standard.

A variance is a regulatory action that permits an employer to deviate from the requirements of an OSHA standard under specified conditions. A variance does not provide an outright exemption from a standard, except in cases involving national defense.

Employers can request a variance for many reasons, including not being able to fully comply on time with a new safety or health standard because of a shortage of personnel, materials or equipment. Employers may prefer to use methods, equipment or facilities that they believe protect workers as well as, or better than, OSHA standards. OSHA may grant a variance if employers prove their proposed methods, conditions, practices, operations or processes provide workplaces that are at least as safe and healthful as workplaces following the OSHA standards from which they are seeking the variance.

Until recently, only approved variance cases were shown on the Variances page. The additional information about denied applications illustrates which requirements businesses have failed to meet when applying for a variance. OSHA's Variances page also provides background on variance rules and instructions on how to apply for a variance. More information about types of variances is available on OSHA's variance fact sheet (pdf).

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