Variance from OSHA Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 establishes numerous health and safety regulations and standards with which the University must comply. The writers of the legislation recognized that there would be situations where it would be most difficult, and perhaps impossible, to comply with the letter of the law and, therefore, provided in the legislation a variance procedure which, after approval by the Department of Labor, permits exceptions to specific rules and regulations. Approval requires that the employer demonstrate that equivalent safety is provided.

The Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (now ESRM) reviewed the variance procedure. The Committee noted that the established procedure is cumbersome and time-consuming, requiring the submission of substantial documentation, the arrangement and conduct of public hearings, and other various and sundry legal proceedings. Consequently, it was the Committee's opinion that the variance procedure is of limited value and applicability to everyday University operations. It appears that in most instances it would be simpler, less time-consuming and probably desirable to achieve compliance with the standard or regulation than to seek a variance from it. At the same time, the Committee recognized there may be instances where an individual researcher or department may find it desirable, indeed necessary, to apply for a variance from a particular requirement or standard.

The Committee established a University procedure for all variance applications and requests.

  1. The preparation of all necessary documentation is the responsibility of the department interested in obtaining the variance. The assistance of EHS and University Counsel should be obtained.
  2. All variance applications shall be submitted to EHS and General Counsel for review and approval. EHS will assist the applicant and coordinate the application approval procedure.
  3. After approval of the two aforementioned offices, the variance applications shall be submitted to the Environmental, Safety and Risk Management (ESRM) committee for review and approval.
  4. After ESRM approval, the application will be submitted to the Department of Labor via EHS, which is responsible for maintaining all documentation on all variance applications and the status of each. It is important that ESRM have knowledge of all variances in existence at the University.
  5. It is understood that continuing compliance with any and all conditions or limitations agreed to or established as part of an approved variance shall be the responsibility of the department that obtained the variance. This is necessary to insure that any and all conditions be established, and under which the approval was granted, if dependent on the personnel who sever their relationship with the University, are continued for as long as possible.
  6. EHS is charged with the additional responsibility of periodically monitoring all activities carried on under an approved variance and to insure that the department's responsibilities regarding any conditions or limitations established in the variance are being complied with.

Adopted October 24, 1973 by COSH (now ESRM)

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