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On December 29, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law. Called “one of the most important pieces of legislation” ever passed by Congress, the Act is designed to support the balance of business needs and employee health. In a nutshell, it basically says that workplaces must be free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

This law passed at a time when an estimated 14,000 workers were dying on the job every year. It also created an administrative agency under the US Department of Labor – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This agency oversees the setting and enforcing of protective workplace safety and health standards. Additionally, it provides information, outreach, and assistance to employers and workers.

Who does OSHA regulate?

OSHA has jurisdiction over most employers. It covers private sector employers and employees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other US jurisdictions. Further, some states even have their own OSHA-approved state program. These must be at least as stringent as the federal program and handle coverage for their specified state.

Many employers believe if they are outside of specific industries (i.e. manufacturing), the Occupational Safety and Health Act does not apply to them. However, most employers are subject to OSHA regulations, regardless of their industry. It is only the specific requirements applying to them that may vary based on industry. Contact us at (866) 946-2032 if you need help determining which requirements apply to your business!

What does OSHA do?

OSHA sets the standards and rules employers must follow to protect their workers from hazards. These standards include requirements to provide fall protection, prevent exposure to harmful substances, and more.

The agency enforces these rules by conducting inspections. When it finds violations, it may issue fines and mandate prompt remediation. OSHA gave its first citation to a chemical company for exposing workers to mercury. Since then, the agency has noted nine million violations and issued 36 health standards. It currently regulates 470 substances. And has it worked? Since the agency began, the daily fatal work injuries rate has dropped from 38 to 12. Additionally, the number of work-related injuries and illnesses has decreased by 40%.

What does OSHA mean for employers?

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers must follow relevant safety and health standards as well as identify and correct safety and health hazards. Employers must also inform employees about workplace hazards, provide personal protective equipment where required, post agency materials, and notify OSHA of any fatalities or serious work-related injuries. OSHA requires employers to keep accurate records of these work-related injuries and illnesses and refrain from retaliating against workers for exercising their rights under the Act. For example, calling the agency about dangers in the workplace.

How does OSHA help employers?

Fundamentally, OSHA helps employers by providing them with guidance and information that will reduce the risk of injury in the workplace. This is valuable both financially and as a way to keep employees healthy and safe. (They are an organization’s most important asset, after all!) Employers who want to be proactive or feel they may need assistance with their OSHA requirements can request a free on-site consultation. The agency provides this service for small businesses with no penalties or citations attached. It also provides services through compliance assistance specialists, cooperative programs, and training and education materials.

What do you think?

Let us know in the comments below your own experience with OSHA compliance! If you have any questions or need assistance with compliance, contact our Customer Service team at (866) 946-2032. You can also browse our online OSHA compliance store to pick up any postings, kits, or trainings you may be missing. Last but not least, don’t forget to log on to your HR Support Center for full access to our entire library of employment laws, checklists, and more to stay on top of your requirements. And be sure to check us out on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn for even more HR tips & tricks!

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

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