Trying to make sense of OSHA regulations but don’t know where to start? Been to the OSHA website and are overwhelmed? Don’t worry. You will find the answers here. I have attempted to take the best of what the OSHA website has to offer for both small and large business and develop a step-by-step approach to help you understand your company’s obligations and what you need to do next. This guide kicks it off with a basic introduction to OSHA.
Why was OSHA Created?
Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 which created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It’s mission is to help employers and employees reduce on the job injuries, illnesses and deaths.
OSHA directs national compliance initiatives in occupational safety and health. Through the methods described below, OSHA helps business protect their workers and reduce the number of workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses. When employees stay safe and healthy, companies can reduce workers’ compensation insurance costs and medical expenses, decreased payout for return-to-work programs, reduce faulty products, and lower costs for job accommodations for injured workers. Indirectly, additional benefits such as increased productivity, lower training costs due to fewer replacement workers and decreased costs for overtime have also been attributed to OSHA’s research and guidance.
Since 1970, workplace deaths have been cut by more than 60 percent and occupational injuries and illnesses have declined 40 percent. In addition OSHA has conducted almost 39,000 inspections & issued over 85,000 citations for safety violations, and has assisted businesses with it’s Consultation Program by making over 31,000 visits to employers.
What does OSHA do?
OSHA employs the following strategies to help employers and employees reduce injuries, illnesses, and deaths on the job:
- Enforcement – making sure OSHA Regulations are followed
- Assistance – outreach & training to employers and employees
- Cooperation – partnerships and alliances through voluntary programs
OSHA promotes workplace safety and health by:
- Implementing new (or improved) safety and health management systems.
- Completing worksite inspections. Companies failing to OSHA Regulations may be cited and/or fined.
- Promoting cooperative programs including Voluntary Protection Programs, OSHA Strategic Partnerships, and other industry Alliances.
- Establishing specific rights and responsibilities of employees and employers.
- Supporting innovation in dealing with workplace hazards.
- Establishing recordkeeping and reporting requirements for employers.
- Developing training programs for occupational safety and health personnel.
- Partnering with states that operate their own occupational safety and health programs.
- Supporting the OSHA Consultation Program.
Are we required to comply?
The OSH Act covers private sector employers/employees in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands as defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
The OSH Act covers employers and employees either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state program.
The OSH Act does not cover:
- Immediate family of farm employers that do not have outside workers
- Federal agencies that have their own worker safety or health requirements
- Employees of state and local governments. Some states have their own requirements covering state & local employees.
Federal Worker Coverage
Although OSHA completes worksite inspections for federal agencies, section 19 of the OSH Act makes federal agency heads responsible for providing safe and healthful working conditions for their employees and must comply with standards consistent with private sector employees.
OSHA Approved State Plans
Twenty two states have optioned to develop their own safety and health programs. The state plans must be at least as effective as Federal OSHA requirements. State plans covering the private sector also must cover state and local government employees. NOTE: The Connecticut, and Virgin Islands plans cover public sector (state and local government) employment only.
What are OSHA regulations?
In general, OSHA regulations (also referred to as “standards”) require employers:
- Maintain conditions and/or adopt practices necessary and appropriate to protect workers on the job.
- Be familiar with and comply with standards applicable to their establishments.
- Ensure that employees have and use personal protective equipment when required for safety and health.
In addition, the OSH Act instituted a “general duty clause” (Section 5(a)(1) which “requires that each employer “furnish … a place of employment which [is] free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees. ”
Personally, I have found it helpful to divide OSHA regulations into Six Management Centers. These centers are non-binding and of my own creation simply to help employers group general, commonly cited hazards into larger categories. Some of the sections in the Six Centers apply to OSHA specific regulations. Others may fall under the General Duty Clause, others still just make common sense and should be addressed. Please note that this list does not address every OSHA regulation and every industry. It is a general guideline only. The Six Management Centers include Administrative Safety, Exposure Control, Personal Protection, Facility Safety, Tools and Equipment, and Behaviors and Attitudes. A brief description of each center and safety topics related to each follows:
NOTE: This page will be continually updated as additional content is posted on the blog. Each of the content areas below will have their own section on the blog.