OSHA workplace regulations are put in place to ensure that employees are kept as safe as possible. Though workplace fatalities have fallen exponentially since the first OSHA regulations were introduced in 1971, there are still an average of about 12 workplace fatalities in the United States every day. Under OSHA law, employers are required to provide a safe workplace for employees. If your industry has recognized workplace hazards, there are a number of different OSHA requirements that reduce the risk to employees and the liability of employers.
Types of Businesses That Are Covered by OSHA
Almost all types of private sector businesses are covered by OSHA regulations. Employers in all 50 US states, as well as the US territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa are required to comply with regulations. Businesses may either be in compliance with federal OSHA regulations, or with the regulations of a state program if the state in which the business is located has one. In most cases, state regulations supersede federal regulations where they are available. Businesses that are not covered by OSHA regulations include those in which workers are self-employed, farms and businesses in industries such as mining in which safety regulations are covered by another government agency.
Health and Safety Standards in the Workplace
Most OSHA regulations fall into three main categories: safety gear and protective clothing, exposure to hazardous substances, and employee slips and falls. OSHA also regulates employee access to safety information that is relevant to them, including requiring employers to disclose any workplace hazards at the time of hiring, and the conspicuous display of safety posters and signs. OSHA requirements also include a General Duty Clause, which requires employers work to the best of their abilities to keep the workplace free of known hazards not covered under specific regulations.
Some of the specific OSHA regulations for employers include the following:
- Ensuring workers are properly informed of chemical hazards and alarms or warning systems are in place to alert workers to spills
- Providing safety training that employees can understand
- Maintaining fire escapes and emergency exit routes in a facility
- Issuing hearing tests and other medical examinations when required by OSHA
- Posting OSHA guidelines and contact information in a conspicuous place where employees can easily access it
- Notifying OSHA within a set time period of any deaths or injuries on the jobsite, and keeping accurate records of any safety incidents that occurThere may be additional regulations in place for certain industries, or in certain states that have expanded OSHA regulations. Be sure to check the guidelines in your area to ensure compliance.
How Standards Are Enforced
Compliance with regulations is primarily assessed through regular inspections by OSHA representatives. A number of worker hospitalizations or a workplace death may also trigger an inspection. OSHA also maintains several methods for employees to confidentially report violations and any workplace safety concerns they may have. Reports are investigated and generally not acted upon unless an OSHA representative uncovers concrete evidence of a safety violation.
The most common method for punishing safety violations is monetary fines. Employers are subject to fines for every violation found during an OSHA inspection, though the exact amount of the fine is generally determined by the severity of the violation and whether it is a repeat occurrence.
Ensuring You Are in Compliance
There are a number of resources available to help you ensure that your workplace complies with OSHA regulations. A compliant workplace is essential not only to the continued health and safety of your employees, but also to the overall satisfaction of your workers and how productive and happy they are as a result.
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