OSHA Laws and Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a subset of the United States Department of Labor. It was created in 1970 as a result of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH), a landmark federal law conceived in a joint effort between Congress and President Richard Nixon. OSHA was officially formed on April 28th, 1971, the date the OSH Act became effective.
The fundamental purpose of OSHA is to set and enforce standards that ensure a safe and healthy work environment for employees across various industries. This is achieved through the establishment of outreach programs for employees, proper training and education, and compliance assistance.
According to OSHA, “employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace for their employees.” OSHA regulations are mandatory. OSHA may issue citations or fines to employers who fail to abide by the regulations set for their respective industries.
Some examples of OSHA standards include requirements for employers to:
– Provide fall protection.
– Prevent exposure to harmful chemicals, pesticides, and infectious diseases.
– Ensure the safety of workers who enter confined spaces.
– Routinely maintain the condition of equipment, and machines.
– Provide employees with respirators, safety glasses, and other personal protection equipment.
– Provide sufficient training and instruction to employees regarding the work to be performed.
– Maintain a work environment free of recognized hazards.
– Abide by the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act: a comprehensive standard that is generally cited when no other applicable standard has been established.
How OSHA Standards Are Established
As a government agency, OSHA has the authority to issue new or revised occupational safety and health standards. It can initiate procedures on its own, or in response to recommendations or petitions arising from concerned parties. These can include the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), state and local governments, nationally recognized standards-producing organizations (such as ANSI), and employer or labor representatives.
The process for creating, or amending a standard is extensive. If OSHA opts to proceed with issuing a new or revised regulation, it must first publish a Request for Information, or an Advance of Notice Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register. This enables OSHA to obtain information and recommendations from members of the public. It also allows stakeholders and small businesses the opportunity to assist OSHA in developing a final standard. After considering all of the information and testimony provided, OSHA finalizes and publishes the standard. Upon publication, the new or revised standard becomes enforceable.
How OSHA Assists Small Businesses
The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) assists small businesses in understanding and complying with OSHA regulations.
Under SBREFA, OSHA is required to:
– Produce small entity compliance guides for some agency rules.
– Be responsive to small business inquiries about complying with OSHA’s regulations.
– Have a penalty reduction policy for small businesses.
– Involve small businesses in developing proposed rules expected to significantly affect a large number of small entities through Review Panels.
– Give small businesses the opportunity to challenge in court agency rules or regulations that they believe will adversely impact them.
Enforcement of Regulations
Enforcement plays a pivotal role in helping OSHA limit workplace injuries and illnesses. The ability to enforce legal regulations is what differentiates OSHA from advisement groups like ANSI. When an employer violates one of OSHA’s regulations, the agency will initiate an inspection without advance notice. Inspections are administered based on the following priorities: imminent danger, fatalities or hospitalizations, worker complaints and referrals, targeted inspections, including frequent hazards or high injury rates, and follow up inspections.
The following is a list of responsibilities that employers must adhere to according to OSHA law:
– Display an official OSHA Job Safety and Health – It’s the Law poster that describes rights and responsibilities under the OSH act. This poster can be obtained for free from www.osha.gov.
– Inform workers about chemical hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets, and other preventative methods.
– Provide safety training to workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand.
– Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
– Notify OSHA of any work-related injuries and illnesses within eight hours for fatalities, or within 24 hours of any work-related inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or injury.
– Not retaliate against workers for using their rights under the law, including their right to report a work-related injury or illness.
– Perform tests and inspections in the workplace, as required by OSHA standards.
– Provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
– Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
– Post OSHA citations and injury and illness data where they are visible to workers.
Standard Workers’ Rights
The following is a list of standard rights afforded to workers under OSHA law:
– Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
– The ability to file a confidential complaint with OSHA to have their workplace inspected.
– The ability to receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
– Training must be provided using a language and vocabulary workers can comprehend.
– The right to receive copies of the results from tests and monitoring done to find and measure hazards in their workplace.
– The right to receive copies of their workplace medical records.
– The right to participate in an OSHA inspection and speak in private with the inspector.
– The right to file a complaint with OSHA if they have been retaliated against by their employer as the result of requesting an inspection or using any of their other rights under the OSH act
– The right to file a complaint if an employee is punished or retaliated against for acting as a whistleblower under the twenty one federal laws for which OSHA has jurisdiction.
– The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 provides retaliation protection for employees who exercise a variety of rights guaranteed under this law, such as filing a safety and health complaint with OSHA, and participation in an inspection.
For more information about OSHA, visit their website at: https://www.osha.gov/.
To learn more about OSHA’s laws and safety regulations, visit: https://www.osha.gov/law-regs.html.