5 Ways OSHA Keeps Employees Safe

The Occupational Safety and Health Act is the primary law that governs workplace health and safety. It places a number of obligations and responsibilities on employers for providing safe working conditions for all employees.

Compliance with the Act is enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which employs a variety of methods designed to reduce workplace injuries, illness, and death.

For your reference, here’s a look at five ways the agency does that:

1. Develop and enforce job safety and health standards:

“Every employer that does work in the United States is subject to the safety and health laws issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the equivalent state programs. State programs must meet or exceed the requirements set forth by OSHA. Even if a company has only one employee, it must have an established safety program.” (Safety, Accidents, and Investigations: Be Prepared for the Unexpected by Lane Powell PC)

2. Conduct workplace safety inspections:

“… OSHA announced its 2011 Site-Specifi c Targeting (SST) plan, the Agency’s annual inspection program for general industry establishments with high numbers of injuries and illnesses. Whereas prior SSTs included only establishments with 40 or more employees, this year’s SST has been expanded to include establishments with as few as 20 employees.” (OSHA Update – OSHA’s 2011 Site-Specific Targeting Plan by Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP)

3. Enforce accident and health recordkeeping:

“OSHA’s recordkeeping standard requires a certification of the 300A [workplace injuries and illnesses] logs by a company executive. OSHA has identified four specific management officials who it considers to be a ‘company executive’ for purposes of certifying the 300A Logs. These individuals are 1) an owner of the company, 2) an officer of the corporation, 3) the highest ranking company official working at the establishment, or 4) the immediate supervisor of the highest ranking company official working at the establishment.” (2011 OSHA Recordkeeping Annual Summary Must Be Posted By February 1, 2012 by Fisher & Phillips LLP)

4. Assess fines for workplace safety violations:

“OSHA is authorized to assess the following civil penalties: $70,000 for each willful or repeated violation; $7,000 for each serious or other than serious violation; $7,000 for each violation of the posting requirement; and $7,000 per day beyond a stated abatement date for failure to correct a violation… In calculating penalties OSHA takes into account the following factors: the seriousness of the violation; the number of employees employed by the employer; the employer’s good faith as demonstrated by the employer’s efforts to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act and OSHA’s standards and regulations; and the employer’s past history of compliance.” (What Every Business Owner Needs To Know About OSHA (Part Three) by Cole Schotz)

5. Enforce the whistleblower provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act

“The various changes designed to bolster OSHA’s whistleblower program, together with the Fairfax Memo, represent a significant departure from past practice—employers should expect OSHA to aggressively review employers’ internal decisions in areas such as employee discipline, work rules, and safety incentive programs. Even more important, employers should be prepared for an increase in the number of whistleblower investigations conducted by OSHA and for longer and more invasive investigations that will include more document requests and witness interviews.” (OSHA Strengthens DOL’s Whistleblower Protection Program by Morgan Lewis)

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