OSHA and keeping your workplace safe
No employer wants a dangerous workplace. Besides the basic human desire of not wanting to see another person harmed, a business can lose man-hours from an injured employee. A safe and secure workplace is somewhere that people want to work and feel comfortable doing their job. An employer may have to pay out unemployment compensation, costs of insurance and possibly even lawsuits if an employee is hurt on the job. Then there are the regulations that a business must follow, most prominently, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). OSHA should be foremost in all employer’s minds and a basic understanding of it can help a business avoid penalties from the federal government and maintain a safe workplace.
What is OSHA?
In 1972 Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act to reduce hazards in the workplace and ensure safe and secure working environments. In rather broad language it requires employers to provide a workplace free of physical dangers and to meet certain health and safety standards.
What exactly does it entail?
The list is long, and recognized hazards are not clearly defined in the law, so pretty much anything that presents a risk of serious harm to an employee must be removed or the risk of harm must be reduced.
Here is a list of some of the specific standards that OSHA requires:
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals
- First aid and medical treatment must be provided
- Noise levels
- Protective gear such as goggles and gloves must be used
- Fire protection
- Proper worker training
- Workplace temperature and ventilation
What kind of businesses does OSHA apply to?
Almost all businesses in the U.S. must comply with OSHA except for a few exceptions. OSHA will not apply to:
- Self employed individuals or businesses with no employees
- A farm that employs only immediate family members
- A business such as mining that has it’s own special set of regulations
Other OSHA requirements
You will have to post a notice in your workplace called “Job Safety and Health Protection” which you can get from a local OSHA office. Also, your state may require it’s own safety sign be posted instead of the federal sign, so check your local laws.
You must notify OSHA within eight hours after learning that an employee has died on the job or if three or more employees are hospitalized because of a workplace accident. You can call or visit an OSHA office to do this reporting.
You must maintain the following records in order to comply with OSHA:
- Injury and illness log
- Medical records
- Training Records
Every employer wants a safe and secure workplace and federal law requires it. OSHA is the federal act that regulates workplace safety and it generally requires that workplaces be free of any harms to physical health. However, OSHA is a long detailed law and every employer should have an understanding of how it affects his or her particular business. To gain more information contact a local OSHA office or a local attorney for further information.
 Fred S. Steingold, The Employer’s Legal Handbook: Manage your Employees and Workplace Effectively 134-137 (Alayna Schroeder ed., Nolo 9th ed. 2009).