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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

OSH Act

Are you keeping your workers safe?
Don your hard hats and your rubber gloves!  It is time for us to talk about safety regulation.  I had my hands on experience with these regulations back when I was in the Navy.  Working within a nuclear power plant, everything we did down to the cleaning chemicals we used, was governed at some level by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  I know some of you have had experience with these safety regulations; please feel free to post your own opinions and comments below.

OSH Act

Today I would like to take a break from out discussion of EEO Laws to talk a little bit about worker safety through the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act and the General Duty Clause.  Prior to the enactment of this law, there were few rules governing the safety of workers.  There were many people that were killed or maimed in work related incidents.  The OSH act was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970 to allow for a safer labor environment for workers.  Since then, millions of people have benefited from the protections of these regulations.  The regulations formed by the OSH act are overseen by OSHA.  The Act itself looks to reduce hazards in the workplace.  Hazards can come in a variety of different forms.  There are those covered by the OSH act that are general in nature, such as fire protection, working surfaces, and first aid.  There are also those that are designed to be specific to an industry.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

It would take a very long time to go through all of the OSH act and other supporting regulations.  However, one thing that was really brought to the forefront as a result of the OSH act was the use of PPE.  PPE can include:

Respirators
Ventilation Fans
Protective Gloves
Boots and Foot Protection
Electrical Protective Devices
Eye Protection and Goggles
Ear Plugs...
And many more.

It is required that all businesses determine whether workers would benefit through the requirement of PPE protection.  Each company should consider any hazards present in their workplace, and design a safety program around it.  This program should include training for each employee in the proper use of safety equipment.  There should also be a method workers can use to report unsafe conditions and also a procedure that is designed to ensure any dangers are addressed by management.

General Duty Clause

The General Duty Clause comes from Section 5 of the OSH act.  Specifically, it states, “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”  The clause goes on to state that it is up to each employee to follow the safety rules.  The importance of the General Duty Clause is that it makes the employer responsible for any “recognized hazard” in the workplace, whether it is covered by a standard or not.  A hazard is determined to be recognized if it is common knowledge in the industry and if it is detectable by the senses; or if it is a widely known industry issue even if it has not been detected by the senses. 

Failure to provide a safe environment to your workers can open an employer up to all kinds of lawsuits.  It should be part of a risk management program for every company to provide, maintain, and enforce safety standards.  The OSH act has had widespread implications, but it is up to all of us to be mindful of safety.

And remember all of you Human Resources professionals:  Be Human... Be a Resource...  Be a Resource for Humans.



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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are by the author Trevor Stasik, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any employer or any other organization. Please note, this information is based on my understanding and is only to be used for informational and educational purposes. Do not take what I am writing as advice. Seek your own legal counsel and/or see a tax accountant before making business or personal decisions. The author of this post makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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