OSHA Basics: How OSHA Standards Are Named and Numbered

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Our OSHA Basics series of articles explains basic, fundamental, and important topics related to OSHA and OSHA compliance.

In this article, we’re going to explain how OSHA standards are named and numbered, and in particular we’re going to break down all of those different numbers and letters in the naming system. Hope you find this helpful!

The Naming & Numbering System of OSHA Standards

Let’s break down the different parts of the “name” of an OSHA standard–all the different letters and numbers.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

The Code of Federal Regulations, also known as the CFR, is “is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations (sometimes called administrative law) published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States. The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to federal regulation.” That definition is from Wikipedia.

Title 29 of the CFR is devoted to the U.S. Department of Labor. The OSHA standards are all included in Title 29, CFR.

Chapters

Each CFR Title, including CFR Title 29 (dedicated to labor, remember) is divided into Chapters, and the names of these Chapters include the names of the federal government agency that issues them.

All of the OSHA Standards are CFR Title 29, Labor, Chapter XVII.


Parts

Each Chapter is divided into Parts. This is where the OSHA standard naming system may begin to seem a bit familiar to you.

Some parts to know about include:

It’s most common to hear people talking about Part 1910 for General Industry and Part 1926 for Construction, but as you see, there are more Parts. Click to see a complete list of the Parts.

Subparts

Parts can be broken down into Subparts.

For example, Part 1910 (General Industry) has many Subparts. Some of those Part 1910 Subparts include:

Click to see a list of all of the Part 1910 Subparts.

Sections

Subparts are divided into Sections. Each section is identified with a number. The numbering system begins with the first Subpart A and continues through all Subparts (take a look at the numbering system on this page if this doesn’t make sense initially).

For example, Subpart D is divided into the following sections:

As we mentioned earlier, the numbering sequence within Part 1910 begins with the earliest Subparts and carries through all the Subparts. So, notice that the first Section in Subpart D is numbered 1910.21. If you look at Subpart C, you’ll find 1910.20 (and Sections with lower numbers) and if you look at Subpart E you’ll find 1910.31 (and Sections with higher numbers).


Major Topic Paragraphs

Sections are then divided into six separate sub-levels or sub-divisions, and the first, or highest-level subdivision, is the Major Topic Paragraph.

These different sub-divisions are identified with a series of letters, numbers, and Roman numerals in the following pattern:

(lower case letter)(number)(lower case Roman numeral)(number in italic font)(number in italic font) (lower case Roman numeral in italic font)

Here’s an example: 29 CFR 1910.110 (b)(13)(ii)(b)(7)(iii)

Notice that the six letters and numbers used to sub-divide each Section are made up of two similar halves–letter, number, and Roman numeral followed by letter, number, and Roman numeral.

Also, be aware that after 1979, the letter in the fourth set of parentheses is capitalized, although in our example above, we show it in a lower-case.

Now, let’s get back to the Major Topic Paragraph. It’s the first of those six sub-divisions, so in our example it’s the “(b)” that we’ve bolded below:

29 CFR 1910.110 (b)(13)(ii)(b)(7)(iii)

Paragraph Sub-Sections

Major Topic Paragraphs and divided into Paragraph Sub-Sections (and then further, smaller sub-divisions). In the example below, the paragraph sub-section is the “(13)”

29 CFR 1910.110 (b)(13)(ii)(b)(7)(iii)

Additional Sub-Divisions

Then, as we said, Paragraph Sub-Sections can be further divided, as we’ve shown in our example:

29 CFR 1910.110 (b)(13)(ii)(b)(7)(iii)

Now, remember: just because all of these potential sub-divisions are available to the writers of OSHA Standards, that doesn’t mean they’re used in every case. But you knew that 🙂


Conclusion: How OSHA Standards Are Named and Numbered

If you found this “OSHA Basics” article on the naming system of OSHA standards 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, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center, 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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