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Authorized Personnel Only: Frequently Asked Questions and Regulations

Q. What does Authorized Personnel Only mean?

A.
‘Authorized Personnel Only’ implies that execution of a certain task or access to a certain area is restricted to persons specifically appointed by an employer or a person-in-charge.
Authorized personnel usually are qualified or trained individuals with thorough knowledge of and/or experience in carrying out potentially dangerous tasks or those authorized by the employer to handle sensitive and crucial operations. They are hired specifically for their skills and expertise.
OSHA 1926.32(d) defines “Authorized Person” as “a person approved or assigned by the employer to perform a specific type of duty or duties or to be at a specific location or locations at the job site”.

Q. Does “authorized personnel” apply to every employee of an organization?

A.
This can vary across industries and organizations, depending on the nature of work and the expertise required to carry out that work. While a restaurant may restrict entry to its kitchen to just its staff, an electricity supply company may only allow a select few of its employees to go near or handle the power grid.

Q. Is there a difference between “employees only” and “authorized personnel only” notices?

A.
Created to serve essentially the same purpose of letting people know which areas are off-limits, employees only signs help keep visitors away while authorized personnel only signs keep away visitors as well as employees who are not trained/qualified to perform certain tasks.
Additionally, while “employees only” refers to the people hired by an organization, “authorized personnel only” may also include third parties who are not regular employees but provide certain services on a contractual basis or upon request.

Q. How does “authorized personnel only” differ from “no trespassing”?

A.
“No trespassing” is usually a warning to potential intruders that they are not welcome and may be reported. On the other hand, “authorized personnel only” acts as a tool to mark restricted-access areas, create awareness about potential workplace hazards and prevent accidents.
If you feel your property needs both no trespassing and authorized personnel only signs, you may explore options such as the one shown on this no trespassing authorized personnel only sign.

Q. Are businesses legally required to post "authorized personnel only" warnings?

A.
OSHA mandates the use of appropriate markers and signs to communicate potential work hazards and take steps to minimize the exposure of workers to such hazards. One of the recommended steps is posting relevant authorized access only signage in accordance with the severity of the perceived hazard, and restricting access to such areas and tasks to individuals trained and experienced in that area of operation.
The onus of implementing these measures and ensuring compliance lies with the employer, who may face serious legal action in the event of any mishaps at work.

Q. Does posting "authorized personnel only" notifications free employers of liabilities in the event of workplace accidents?

A.
Posting pertinent warnings with respect to workplace hazards that workers may come across is only one of the many steps employers/businesses are required to take to mitigate the risk of minor, moderate and severe injuries. These requirements vary across industries and may include things like providing appropriate PPE, conducting regular trainings, identifying and communicating potential threats and risks, creating processes and procedures to ensure the utmost safety, and delegating crucial or considerably dangerous tasks to employees best suited to carry them out, among others.
Hence, merely posting “authorized personnel only” notifications is not enough to create a worker-safe environment at work and may not be sufficient to free the employer of his/her liability in the event of accidents or mishaps.
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