Does "Subpart J - General Environmental Controls" Apply to You?

Subpart J provides the standards for sanitation, marking physical hazards, specifications for signs and tags, temporary labor camps, permit-required confined spaces and the control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout).

Most employers need to comply with the standards on sanitation, marking physical hazards, and the specifications for signs and tags. The sanitation standard includes requirements for housekeeping, potable water, bathrooms, showers, vermin control, food handling, and waste disposal. Also reference SN 58 - Availability of and Access to Toilets and Hand Washing Facilities as it discusses the responsibility of employers in general industry and construction to provide and permit employees reasonable access to hand washing facilities and toilets as needed or with reasonable restrictions. 

Safety color code for marking physical hazards standard provides the color codes to be used for fire (red), danger (red), stop (red); physical hazards (yellow) and caution (yellow). The specifications for accident prevention signs and tags standard provides signs and tags application and use for hazards such as danger, biohazard, slow moving vehicle, and caution. In addition, reference appendix A for recommended color coding. These specifications cover all safety signs except those designed for streets, highways, and railroads. They also do not apply to plant bulletin boards or to safety posters.

Do you have confined spaces? Do employees service or maintain equipment or machines? Do you have a temporary labor camp? If yes, then click on the tabs below to see if either apply to you.


Subpart J - General Environmental Controls

Tab/Accordion Items

Before you answer this question, reference appendix A - permit-required confined space decision flow chart and consider the definitions of a confined space and permit-required confined space. A confined space:

  • Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work; and
  • Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry.); and
  • Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

permit-required confined space must have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere;
  • Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant;
  • Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section; or
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.

According to paragraph (c) - general requirements, the employer needs to evaluate all confined spaces and determine if they are permit-required confined spaces. Note: If your employees are not going to enter permit spaces then after you have evaluated the spaces, you will need to inform exposed employees by posting danger signs, or by any other equally effective means, of the existence and location of and the danger posed by the permit spaces and take effective measures to prevent employees from entering the permit spaces. 

Are your employees going to enter permit spaces? If yes, you need to comply with all the requirements of the permit-required confined space standard. This standard contains requirements for practices and procedures to protect employees in general industry from the hazards of entry into permit-required confined spaces. This standard does not apply to agriculture, to construction, or to shipyard employment. It provides general requirements (i.e., evaluating spaces, signage, entry, non-entry, alternate procedures), and requirements for a written permit space program, permit system, entry permits, training, duties of authorized entrants, duties of attendants, duties of entry supervisors, rescue and emergency services, and employee participation. In addition, appendix B provides procedures for atmospheric testing, appendix C provides example permit-required confined space programs, appendix D provides sample permits, appendix E provides sewer system entry guidance, and appendix F provides rescue team or rescue service evaluation criteria.

Other definitions include:

Hazardous atmosphere means an atmosphere that may expose employees to the risk of death, incapacitation, impairment of ability to self-rescue (that is, escape unaided from a permit space), injury, or acute illness from one or more of the following causes:

  • Flammable gas, vapor, or mist in excess of 10 percent of its lower flammable limit (LFL);
  • Airborne combustible dust at a concentration that meets or exceeds its LFL; Note: This concentration may be approximated as a condition in which the dust obscures vision at a distance of 5 feet (1.52 m) or less.
  • Atmospheric oxygen concentration below 19.5 percent or above 23.5 percent;
  • Atmospheric concentration of any substance for which a dose or a permissible exposure limit is published in Subpart G, Occupational Health and Environmental Control, or in Subpart Z, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, of this Part and which could result in employee exposure in excess of its dose or permissible exposure limit; Note: An atmospheric concentration of any substance that is not capable of causing death, incapacitation, impairment of ability to self-rescue, injury, or acute illness due to its health effects is not covered by this provision.
  • Any other atmospheric condition that is immediately dangerous to life or health.

More information can be found on the A-Z safety and health topics page for confined spacesflammable liquids, welding and cutting and hazard communication.

This standard applies to the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines or equipment, or release of stored energy, could harm employees. By definition, an energy source can be electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other source of energy.

Normal production operations are not covered by this standard (See subpart O of the general industry standards). Servicing and/or maintenance which takes place during normal production operations is covered by this standard only if:

  • An employee is required to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device; or
  • An employee is required to place any part of his or her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment where work is actually performed upon the material being processed (point of operation) or where an associated danger zone exists during a machine operating cycle.

Note: Paragraph (a)(2)(ii): Minor tool changes and adjustments, and other minor servicing activities, which take place during normal production operations, are not covered by this standard if they are routine, repetitive, and integral to the use of the equipment for production, provided that the work is performed using alternative measures which provide effective protection (See Subpart O of this Part).

This standard does not cover the following:

  • Construction and agriculture employment;
  • Employment covered by shipyard employmentmarine terminals, and longshoring;
  • Installations under the exclusive control of electric utilities for the purpose of power generation, transmission and distribution, including related equipment for communication or metering;
  • Exposure to electrical hazards from work on, near, or with conductors or equipment in electric-utilization installations, which is covered by subpart S of this part; and
  • Oil and gas well drilling and servicing.

 This standard does not apply to the following:

  • Work on cord and plug connected electric equipment for which exposure to the hazards of unexpected energization or startup of the equipment is controlled by the unplugging of the equipment from the energy source and by the plug being under the exclusive control of the employee performing the servicing or maintenance.
  • Hot tap operations involving transmission and distribution systems for substances such as gas, steam, water or petroleum products when they are performed on pressurized pipelines, provided that the employer demonstrates that:
    • continuity of service is essential;
    • shutdown of the system is impractical;
    • documented procedures are followed, and
    • special equipment is used which will provide proven effective protection for employees.

Based on the above criteria, do your employees service or maintain machines or equipment that have an energy source that could harm them? If yes, then you need to comply with the control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout) standard. This standard provides the requirements for a written energy control program, procedures, training, inspections, locks and tags, and testing and positioning machines and equipment.  Appendix A contains typical minimal lockout procedures. 

It also provides definitions such as:

Servicing and/or maintenance - Workplace activities such as constructing, installing, setting up, adjusting, inspecting, modifying, and maintaining and/or servicing machines or equipment. These activities include lubrication, cleaning or unjamming of machines or equipment and making adjustments or tool changes, where the employee may be exposed to the unexpected energization or startup of the equipment or release of hazardous energy. 

Energy isolating device - A mechanical device that physically prevents the transmission or release of energy, including but not limited to the following: A manually operated electrical circuit breaker; a disconnect switch; a manually operated switch by which the conductors of a circuit can be disconnected from all ungrounded supply conductors, and, in addition, no pole can be operated independently; a line valve; a block; and any similar device used to block or isolate energy. Push buttons, selector switches and other control circuit type devices are not energy isolating devices. 

Affected employee - An employee whose job requires him/her to operate or use a machine or equipment on which servicing or maintenance is being performed under lockout or tagout, or whose job requires him/her to work in an area in which such servicing or maintenance is being performed. 

Authorized employee - A person who locks out or tags out machines or equipment in order to perform servicing or maintenance on that machine or equipment. An affected employee becomes an authorized employee when that employee's duties include performing servicing or maintenance covered under this section. 

More information can be found on the A-Z safety and health topics page for lockout/tagout and electrical safety.


If yes, then you need to comply with the temporary labor camps standard. This standard provides requirements for the site (i.e., camps to be adequately drained, of an adequate size), shelter (i.e., construction, seven foot ceilings, sleeping quarters, living quarters, cooking facilities, heating and cooling), water supply (i.e., convenient, water outlets), toilet facilities (i.e., capacity, accessible, location, lighting), sewage disposal facilities, laundry, handwashing and bathing facilities (i.e., ratios, adequate supply of running water, cleanliness), lighting, refuse disposal, construction and operation of kitchens, dining hall, and feeding facilities, first aid, and reporting communicable diseases.  Note: This standard typically applies to the agriculture industry.