About OSHA Performance, Specification, Horizontal and Vertical Standards


Performance Standards dictate “How” NOT “What.”  

Performance Standards are goal-oriented, but they do not specify how the goal is achieved.  Typically they are vague, broad, and allow employees greater flexibility in complying with the standard.  Performance standards are usually preferable to a specification standards.  Examples: personal protective equipment (PPE) standards

Specification Standards dictate “How” AND “What.”  

Specification Standards establish specific methods used for hazard abatement.  Example: the guardrail standard (29 CFR 1910.23).

Horizontal Standards apply across industry lines.  

Horizontal standards are applicable to general industry and apply to all covered employees.  Example: The UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) standard (29 CFR 1910.1200).

Vertical Standards apply within a specific industry. 

Verical standards tend to cover many of the same hazardsas in horizontal standards.  There are many industry-specific hazards.  From OSHA’s perspective vertical standards take precedence over horizontal standards.  If no vertical standard exists, then the horizontal standard applies.  Example:  Construction standards (29 CFR 1926)



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