Almost every business in America must adhere to the workplace standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which should be enforced through inspections, citations, and fines.
If you are an employer, you will have a legal obligation to comply to all duties stated in your industry within the OSHA Act (1970). Here is everything you need to know about OSHA compliance to ensure you provide a safe working environment for both your employees and the public.
Tragically, many workers were killed at work or experienced serious injuries at the turn of the 20th century. As a result, Wisconsin passed the first workers’ compensation law in the United States in 1911, and other states later followed in their footsteps. Fortunately, this led to a decline in workplace injuries and fatalities. Despite the improvements, injuries and illnesses were still high during the late 1960s, even following the implementation of safety laws across multiple states. Due to inconsistent laws, Congress passed the Occupational and Safety and Health Act in 1970, which now provides the workplace safety premise for businesses and employees.
General Duties for Workplace Safety
There are three basic duties within the OSHA Act. Two duties apply to employers, while the third duty applies to employees. The first duty dictates that every employer must maintain a safe workplace environment that does not feature any known hazards. The clause forbids any serious injury, illness or fatality in any situation, or any situation that could increase the risk of any of the listed injuries. The second duty simply requires every employer to follow all additional standards set by OSHA.
Employees also have a duty to comply to OSHA standards, which can ensure a safe working environment for both themselves and others. Yet, self-employed workers or family members at a family-owned farm are exempt from following the third duty.
Basic OSHA Standards
The Department of Labor has organized OSHA standards into three basic categories. The first set determines the equipment types businesses can use, as well as the procedures they are legally required to follow each day. The next set of standards limits employee exposure to potentially dangerous substances and chemicals. While the third set requires companies to regulate record keeping, which will ensure every business keeps an accurate log of all potential hazards, workplace injuries, and illnesses.
Typical OSHA Standards
Typical OSHA standards were developed to improve safety at work. The standards require employers to install guards onto machines that feature potentially dangerous moving parts. What’s more, they must also provide the appropriate personal protection safety equipment for a task performed, which can prevent employees from asbestos exposure.
If a job is dangerous by nature, every employee must receive the appropriate level of training, without exception, which will ensure they have the knowledge and skills to perform their tasks as safely as possible at work. For example, employees responsible for digging tunnels must be effectively protected from a cave-in; while employees required to work from a height must be protected from falling.
Specific Industry Standards
While most businesses are governed by the many OSHA standards for a general industry, there are some separate categories the maritime, agriculture and construction industries must adhere to. That is because there are some industries more dangerous than others for employees and the public, so they require their own set requirements to ensure on-site safety.
For example, many maritime industries use cranes within the workplace. Of course, the most important part of the crane is the load chart. Yet many operators do not understand its importance during operation, which is why they will need professional training to prevent an unfortunate accident at work. It is also essential to undertake a maritime inspection from Atlantic Crane, who can provide initial, annual, or quadrennial inspection that adheres to OSHA standards.
Most companies with workplace safety hazards will be required to follow the specific safety standards. For instance, all individuals who could experience a head injury by a flying or falling object must wear head protection, such as helmets. Workers who may also come into contact with flying particles, molten metal, or another hazard, which could cause injury to the face or eye, must wear eye or face protection.
What to Do if No Specific Standards Exist
There are, however, some workplace dangers that do not have a specific safety standards. If this is the case, employers are legally required to protect their employees from workplace hazards by following the general duty clause, mentioned earlier. A prime example is how OSHA has not set a specific workplace standard for working within a cold environment, Yet, employees must protect their staff from injuries or fatalities caused by exposure to the cold by following the general duty clause.
The Consequences of an OSHA Violation
There will be serious consequences if an employer fails to adhere to the OSHA act, as they have a legal duty to adhere to the standards set to protect their workers. The ramifications will ultimately depend on the injury sustained, the probability of an accident, willful violations and if there have been repeat violations. For example, if there was a high probability of injury or death within a workplace, and if the employer was aware of the potential for danger, a company would face a mandatory penalty of $7,000. Yet companies that experience repeat violations can receive a fine of up to $70,000 for each offense or violation.
If you are an employer or planning to launch a new business, you must adhere to the OSHA act to protect your employees and the public, while ensuring your business is not subjected to various legal and financial ramifications. You must, therefore, learn more about your industry and the OSHA act to ensure your company continually complies with the standards set within your industry.
Do you have any helpful advice on how to adhere to OSHA standards? Share your top tips and stories by writing a comment in the section below.