OSHA Basics: OSHA Directives

Here’s another quick article in our OSHA Basics series, in which we explain basic, ground-level information about OSHA that you may not know. Hey, none of us were born with this information and you’ve got to learn it somewhere, right?

In this article, we’re going to explain what an OSHA Directive is. We hope you’ll find this helpful. They’re definitely good to know about in the context of OSHA inspections.

And with that to pique your curiosity, let’s get started.

OSHA Directives

According to this OSHA letter of interpretation:

OSHA issues directives to assure the agency’s policies, procedures, and instructions concerning agency operations are communicated effectively and timely to its personnel and other affected parties (OSHA Directive ADM 8-0.3, Chapter 5, Definitions, “Directives System”).

According to OSHA Directive ADM 8.-0.3 (reference above), a directive is:

DIRECTIVE: A written statement of policy and procedure on a single subject. May include implementation guidelines.

Also according to OSHA Directive ADM 8.-0.3, there are four types of directives:

  1. National Directives
  2. Regional Directives
  3. Internal Procedure Systems
  4. External Authorities

Let’s look at each more closely.


National Directives

National directives include Instructions, Notices, and OSHA Directions (DIRs). Let’s get a closer look.

An Instruction is a “long-term policy and procedure pronouncements that have continuing reference value. They are intended to be in effect for more than one year. An instruction may be issued as a manual when the material is of a length equal to or more than 20 printed pages, or to meet special requirements.”

A Notice is a “Short-term policy and procedure pronouncements that are not to remain in effect over one year. Notices may be used to cancel an existing OSHA Instruction or Notice; such cancellations are permanent and do not expire at the end of that year.”

An OSHA Direction (DIR) is “Time-sensitive policy and procedure pronouncements that must be issued quickly to take effect when a policy or procedural change must be communicated quickly. They undergo a notification and rapid review screening rather than a full clearance process. DIRs remain in effect until the superseding instruction is effective but not more than 12 months from the effective date or until canceled by a superseding directive, whichever occurs first.”

Regional Directives

These are directives issued by regional administrators and they only apply in that specific region.

Regional Directives:

  • Provide direction on subjects that are not covered by a national directive (such as a Local Emphasis Program) or to supplement a national directive in the specific region
  • Do not alter, contradict, or overrule a national directive in any way

Internal Procedure Systems

According to OSHA, “OSHA field and headquarters are free to establish separate local systems for issuing internal operating procedures. Internal procedures and similar documents are not included in the OSHA Directives System.”

OSHA continues to state that a local system cannot alter or contradict any statement in a national or regional directive, and that internal procedures are restricted to operating procedures of the local office and in no way, and under no circumstances, do they establish OSHA policy and/or procedure.

External Authorities

Here’s how OSHA explains “External Authorities:”

The Congress, the courts, the Executive Office of the President, Cabinet Departments (including the Department of Labor), and other Federal agencies issue a variety of laws, legal decisions, regulations, directives, and the like, which OSHA must consider in drafting and promulgating policy and procedures in the Directive System. Originators must be aware of these materials when drafting policy materials.


Where to Find OSHA Directives?

You can find all OSHA Directives on a single web page. The OSHA homepage includes a link to the OSHA Directives web page by:

  1. Going to OSHA.gov
  2. Clicking the “Enforcement” menu near the top
  3. Clicking the Directives link

See below is you want a visual of that 🙂

OSHA Directives Webpage Image

Conclusion: OSHA Directives

If you found this “OSHA Basics” article on compliance directives helpful, you may also want to check out some of the following articles:

And before you leave, download our free EFFECTIVE SAFETY TRAINING GUIDE, below.

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 20 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training.

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