If your company is unable to comply with a new standard because of the unavailability of materials, equipment, or professional or technical personnel, or can prove that your facility or methods of operation provide employee protection at least as effective as that required by OSHA, it may apply for a variance from a specific standard.
Whenever an employer applies for either a temporary or a permanent variance, he or she must inform employees of the application and of their right to request a hearing.
When an employer cannot comply with a new standard by its effective date, it may apply for a temporary variance from that standard. To be eligible for a temporary variance, the employer must put into force an effective program for coming into compliance with the standard or regulations as quickly as possible. In the meantime, it must be demonstrated to OSHA that all available steps are being taken to safeguard employees.
A temporary variance may be granted for up to one year; it can be renewed twice, each time for six months.
You may also apply for a permanent variance from a standard if you can prove that your present facilities or methods of operation are at least as safe and healthful as those required by the OSHA standard.
In making a determination on a permanent variance, OSHA reviews the employer's evidence and, where appropriate, arranges a visit to the workplace to confirm the circumstances of the application. If the request has merit, OSHA may grant a permanent variance. Final variance orders detail the employer's specific responsibilities and requirements and explain exactly how the employer's method varies from the OSHA requirement.