How To Understand Osha Standards For The Military?


Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a federal agency under the United States Department of Labor. It strives to maintain the health and security of workers through its health and safety policies.

However, the military is not in collaboration with OSHA. There are no mandatory OSHA military standards. The Department of Defense has its own policies specifically designed for military personnel and civilian employees. These policies are stricter than OSHA, given the high-risk nature of military duties.

Do OSHA rules apply to the military?

The answer is no. The Presidential Executive Order (EO) 12196 exempted military personnel and distinct military equipment, systems, and operations from OSHA’s jurisdiction in 1980. 

However, 700,000 civilian employees are working under the Department Of Defense. Their work-related tasks are not entirely military-related. Thus, OSHA standards can apply to these employees. 

In 2003, the Army partnered with OSHA to provide a holistic assessment of health-related matters for the civilian workforce to reduce fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. As a result of their joint effort, they achieved a 3% decrease in these issues.

Osha can make sure that the safety standards are followed in organizations like the U.S. Coast Guard, which is an Armed Forces Unit. They carry out rescue operations, prevent illegal activities at sea, and enforce maritime regulations with authority. All these operations are similar to private sector work.

What is the difference between OSHA and military rules?

It is a bit confusing to understand when OSHA rules are applicable to the military and when they are not. The activities are akin to the private sectors, such as vehicle repair, medical services, construction, civil engineering, public works, supply services, and administrative work. However, due to minor changes in military operations, OSHA standards wouldn’t apply.

For example, OSHA standards apply when workers in the construction industry repair a crane. Still, the safety standards don’t apply when a tank has to be repaired as it is considered “uniquely military.” 

Similarly, OSHA actively monitors the handling of hazardous chemicals in different industries, but in the Military, they are more stringent, and extensive safety training is needed to handle hazardous chemicals. An example is asbestos exposure, which is not usually covered by OSHA. Employees can obtain essential OSHA courses through to proactively prevent workplace incidents and enhance safety.

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OSHA doesn’t have authority over specific areas that are a part of military forces and under the supervision of the Department of Defence. OSHA’s Field Operations Manual has listed a few examples. They are as follows: 

  • Military space systems
  • Field manoeuvres
  • Military aircraft, ships, and submarines
  • Artillery, tanks, and tactical vehicles
  • Naval operations, military flight operations, and associated research test and development activities
  • Missiles and missile sites

OSHA and Army:

Army Regulation 385-10 defined rules for the Army Safety Program in 2000. These rules apply to the following areas: 

  • Active Army
  • The Army National Guard of the United States, the U.S.
  • Army Reserve
  • Army civilian employees
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Civil Works

Osha and the Army safety program provide policies and procedures to reduce and prevent accidents as Army personnel and civilian employees have more risk exposure. The root causes of accidents are investigated to determine the causes so preventive measures can be taken for the future. 

Osha for Military:

Having said all the points mentioned above, The Department of Defense includes OSHA rules in its Army Safety Program to comply with the health standards and safety regulations. OSHA exclusively monitors military health regulations. 

How are Military OSHA Standards Different?

OSHA adds value to the already established workforce policies by Army Regulation 385-10 to provide a higher degree of protection to the military. 

For example, OSHA has developed a safety manual for military soldiers, which is Engineering Manual (EM) 385-1-1, to provide safety guidance to Construction workers who work on military or federally funded projects. 

EM 385 is an Engineering Manual that provides guidance on safety and health for USACE construction projects. 

In contrast, hearing is a serious concern for soldiers due to their exposure to loud noises from gunfire, explosions, and aircraft. The Army has a strict hearing loss prevention program. These programs are usually not included in OSHA standards. 

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Osha offers fall protection for construction workers. Soldiers are also faced with the potential risks of falls and injuries. However, their fall protection manual EM 385 is more stringent than those of the construction.

Army administrative and managerial requirements are different from those of other industries. As USACE are disciplined and follow orders, the soldiers have to follow health-related orders strictly under the supervision of the Site Safety and Health Officer. A written Accident Prevention Plan (APP) and an Activity Hazard Analysis are also required to make sure all the requirements are met properly. 

The safety training is extensive and rigorous. It requires a toolbox talk at least once a week to remind workers about the importance of maintaining safety in the workplace. Documentation of attendance is also mandatory to ensure that the USACE meets its safety requirements.

Military OSHA Training:

Workers must take the following procedures and practices into consideration:

  • Workers must take specific EM 385-1-1 safety indoctrination courses for extensive training. 
  • Workers who don’t have managerial duties need 16-hour EM 385 orientation.
  • 24-hour EM 385 training is mandatory for supervisors, crew leaders, and CDSOs. 
  • Osha offers a 40-hour course, which is followed by an annual 8-hour refresher for SSHOs. 
  • Workers need to have an updated OSHA 30 card through OSHA 30-Hour Construction training to provide evidence that they are OSHA-trained.


Soldiers work in a high-risk environment and have a critical need for safety training. With each year, OSHA is making advancements in its guidelines to maximize the safety of your workers both in the private sector and federal agencies. 

For a prosperous and productive working environment, it is important that you vigilantly monitor the procedures determined by OSHA for every category. 

Implement this as a collective responsibility in your workers to make your working environment free from accidents, injuries, and hazards. 

The OSHA and EM 385 courses are available online as well. Sign up for a course now and raise the safety standards for your workers.