Experimental Variance Application Instructions

March 15, 2023

The process outlined below is applicable only to Experimental Variance Application Requests. Instructions are provided below for Permanent and Temporary Variances.

Cal/OSHA may issue experimental variances to employers if the experiment is approved by the Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) pursuant to California Labor Code Section 6452:

Labor Code §6452
“The division is authorized to grant a temporary variance from any standard or portion thereof whenever it determines such variance is necessary to permit an employer to participate in an experiment approved by the director designed to demonstrate or validate new and improved techniques to safeguard the health or safety of workers.”

Experimental Variance Application

To apply for an experimental variance from a Title 8 regulation, an employer should do the following:

Submit a letter to Cal/OSHA with the following information:

  1. State the Title 8 safety order(s) that are the subject of the proposed experimental variance.
    1. List all sections of California Code of Regulations, Title 8, that apply, plus applicable consensus standards, such as:
      • ANSI
      • ASME
      • NFPA
      • API
      • Other national consensus standards that are included in the applicable Title 8 section(s).
  2. State all addresses and locations where the proposed experimental variance will be in effect. This is not applicable for construction, service, and other industries where future site locations are unknown.
  3. State if the applicant has:
    1. Been cited by Cal/OSHA,
    2. Filed an appeal, or
    3. Has an appeal pending before the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (OSHAB) regarding the safety orders for which the employer is applying for an experimental variance.
  4. Describe in detail the proposed changes to equipment, conditions, practices, means, methods, operations, or processes that the employer is proposing in the experimental variance and how those changes will enhance the health and safety of employees.

    Include a description of the action(s) the employer will take while the experimental variance is in place to ensure that employees are protected against the hazard(s) covered by the regulation for which the variance is requested.

  5. Certify that all employees who may be affected by the experimental variance and their representatives have been notified of the experimental variance application by:
    1. Providing a copy of the application letter to employee representatives,
    2. Posting a copy of the application letter at places where employee notices are normally posted, and
    3. Providing an electronic copy of the application letter to employees and their representative(s).

    Applicants should ensure that the application letter has been translated into language(s) spoken by employees in the workplace.

    The application should include a description of the method used by the employer to inform employees and their representative(s) of the experimental variance application.

  6. Send the letter via email to: Debra Lee DLee@dir.ca.gov (Acting Chief of Cal/OSHA), and Eric Berg eberg@dir.ca.gov (Deputy Chief of Health for Cal/OSHA).

Permanent and Temporary Variances

  • Permanent Variance: To apply for a permanent variance, contact the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board.
  • Temporary Variance (Labor Code section 6450): If an employer is unable to comply with a new regulation by its effective date because of:
    • Unavailability of necessary professional/technical personnel
    • Unavailability of necessary materials/equipment, or
    • Necessary construction or alteration of facilities cannot be completed by the effective date,

    Apply for a temporary variance by contacting:

    Chief's Office
    Cal/OSHA Headquarters
    1515 Clay Street, Suite 1901
    Oakland, CA 94612
    (510) 286-7000

March 2024