SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Getting Familiar with OSHA
As the person responsible for safety in your organization,
you must be familiar with the federal
agency for safety and health and what it requires
of your organization. Too many times we forget that worker
safety is paramount in the way we conduct business. If
we did not have our skilled workforce, we would not be in
business, So this month I would like to go over what OSHA
expects from an employer.
What Is OSHA?
OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, the federal agency charged with improving
and ensuring the safety and health of the nation’s
workers. OSHA was established by the 1970
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).
This ACT stateÓ Each employer shall furnish to each
employee, employment and a place of employment which
is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely
to cause serious physical harmÓ. OSHA has subsequently
set forth regulations for many types of workplaces and
many types of work-related activities. We’ll cover the
requirements of these regulations in later chapters.
What About State Safety Regulations?
States have two choices when it comes to safety. They
may adopt the OSHA’s federal regulations, or they may
have a state plan; however, the state plan must have
requirements as least as stringent as those of the federal
As a result, many states that have chosen to be “state
planÓ states have regulations that mimic the federal regulations
in most particulars. Nevertheless, if you operate in
a “state planÓ state, you must familiarize yourself with
Rights and Responsibilities Under OSHA
You as the employer or supervisor must be familiar with
what OSHA requires of your organization. In addition to
knowing safety rules for their areas, your managers and
supervisors should particularly be aware of employee
rights granted by OSHA.
What OSHA Requires of Employers
There’s a long list of employers’ OSHA responsibilities.
Here’s what employers are required to do:
What OSHA Requires of Employees
- Meet the general duty to provide a workplace free from
- Be familiar with and comply with OSHA’s standards,
rules, and regulations.
- Keep workers informed about OSHA and safety and
health matters, and make copies of OSHA standards
available to employees upon request.
- Warn employees of potential hazards.
- Provide employees with safe and properly maintained
tools and equipment, including appropriate personal
protective equipment, and ensure that they use the
- Evaluate workplace conditions, and minimize or eliminate
- Establish operating procedures and communicate them
- Provide required training.
- Provide medical exams when required.
- Report certain accidents.
- Maintain required records of work-related injuries and
illnesses, and post a copy of OSHA 300A, Summary of
Work-related Injuries and Illnesses, from February 1 to
- Post prominently the OSHA “It’s the Law” poster.
- Post OSHA citations and abatement verification notices
at or near the worksite involved.
- Abate cited violations within the prescribed period.
- Provide employees, former employees, and their representatives
access to the Log of Work related Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA 300) at a
reasonable time and in a reasonable manner.
- Provide access to employee medical records and exposure
records to the employee and others.
- Cooperate with OSHA compliance officers.
- Not discriminate against employees exercising their
rights under the OSHA Act.
While OSHA places most of its requirements on employers,
it also places responsibilities on employees. Although
OSHA does not cite employees for violations, it does
require safe behavior from them. Specifically, employees
- Comply with all applicable standards, rules, regulation,
and orders issued under the OSH Act.
- Follow all employer safety and health rules and regulations,
and wear or use prescribed protective equipment.
- Report hazardous conditions and job-related injuries.
What Rights OSHA Gives Employees
OSHA also provides employees with certain rights.
Among those are the right to:
- A workplace free from recognized hazards.
- Review copies of OSHA standards, rules, regulations,
- Request information from the employer on safety and
health hazards, precautions, and emergency procedures.
- Receive adequate training and information.
- Request an OSHA investigation if they believe hazardous
- Have their name withheld from the employer if they file
Have an employee representative accompany an OSHA
- Respond to questions from the inspector.
- Observe monitoring of hazardous materials and see
- Review the OSHA Log and Summary forms.
- Submit a written request to the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health for information on
whether any substance in the workplace has potentially
toxic effects in the concentrations being used.
- Report unsafe conditions.
- Refuse to work in unsafe conditions if the employee has
a good faith belief that the conditions constitute an
imminent threat and where there is insufficient time to
contact OSHA, and where the employee has sought
from the employer and been unable to obtain a correction
of the dangerous conditions.
All supervisors and managers must know and respect
OSHA Citations and Penalties
While OSHA does devote substantial resources to training
and helping employers to comply with its regulations,
it also maintains a large force of compliance officers. Some
inspections are randomly done, some come as a result of
employee complaints, and some are the result of an OSHA
focus on a specific industry or on workplaces with a history
of safety violations. When OSHA inspectors arrive, generally
unannounced, they will ask for entry and for an initial
Technically, you don’t have to let them in without a warrant,
but most employers do, because they can easily get
a warrant, and after they do, they’ll probably be a little
more sharp-eyed, and less inclined to accept explanations
than they would have been had you let them in first time
Inspectors will often want to see your safety program
materials and generally want to talk to employees. They
may quiz employees to see if they understand the hazards
with which they work, where the Material Safety Data
Sheets (MSDSs) related to hazards are located, and so on.
At the end of the inspection, there is a closing conference.
If OSHA finds violations, they issue citations and levy
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of this page.