Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.
OSHA: Definition and Mission
Owen works for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as an inspector. OSHA was established pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was passed by Congress in 1970. The goal of the Act is to make sure that workers have the most safe and healthy work conditions possible. Many states also run their own OSHA programs, but we'll keep our discussion mostly to the federal program.
OSHA regulates workplace safety and health by issuing safety and health standards. Owen and other OSHA employees will undertake inspections and investigations to make sure that employers are complying with the standards.
Who's Subject to OSHA
OSHA applies to most private sector employers and federal agencies. Regulations are implemented either directly through federal OSHA or through a state-run OSHA plan that has been approved by OSHA. State plans are run by the state instead of the federal government. States can choose to develop plans for private sector and state and local government agencies or just a plan for the government employees. If a state only provides a plan for government agencies, then private sector employers remain under federal OSHA jurisdiction.
OSHA doesn't cover every employer and worker. Let's look at some examples:
- Self-employed people
- Employees of a farm who are immediate family of a farmer employer
- Any workplace hazard that is regulated by another agency of the federal government is not covered by OSHA.
- For example, miners are protected by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration regulates air travel hazards.
OSHA mandates a plethora of employer responsibilities. According to OSHA:
- Employers must provide a safe workplace without serious hazards.
- Employers must follow all safety and health standards implemented by OSHA.
- Employers must discover and correct safety and health problems.
- Employers must try to eliminate or reduce a hazard rather than relying on protective equipment. For example, they must use a safer cleaning chemical instead of one that requires protective clothing if its use is feasible.
- Employees must be informed and trained on chemical hazards. Employers must use such tools as training, labels, color-coded systems and chemical information sheets to inform its employees of the safety and health hazards.
- Employers must provide safety training in a way employees can understand.
- Employers must perform testing of facilities and medical testing of workers as required by OSHA standards.
- Employers have to keep accurate records of work illnesses and injuries.
- Employers must provide protective equipment to employees at no cost.
- Employers must publicly post information required to be displayed by OSHA for employees to see and read.
- Employers cannot retaliate or discriminate against workers for asserting their rights under OSHA, including reporting an injury or illness.
OSHA not only imposes duties on employers but also bestows rights on employees. According to OSHA:
- Employees should have working conditions that do not present a serious risk of harm.
- Employees have a right to training and information about hazards, OSHA standards and means to prevent harm.
- Employees have a right to receive information about workplace injuries, illnesses, tests conducted on facilities and their work-related medical records.
- Employees have a right to participate in OSHA inspections and speak with inspectors in private.
- Employees have a right to file a confidential complaint for an inspection.
- Employees have a right to file a complaint if they have been retaliated or discriminated against for asserting any of their rights under OSHA, including requesting an inspection or acting as a whistleblower.
Owen works for OSHA and does surprise inspections at industrial plants to make sure employers are maintaining a safe and healthy work environment and complying with OSHA standards. He'll make sure that employees are wearing the appropriate safety equipment, such as hardhats, protective eyewear, clothing and breathing respirators. He'll also make sure that chemicals are stored and used in a manner consistent with OSHA's standards.
Owen will also confirm that employees are given the opportunity to review information on the chemicals they use through safety data sheets. He'll make sure that the employees are using tools and machinery in a safe manner and that they are maintained pursuant to relevant standards. Owen will also make sure the plant's training safety and health training program is adequate. He'll also make sure that the appropriate signs and warnings are in place for dangerous equipment, tools, chemicals, substances and areas. He will talk with management and workers.
If Owen finds a violation of any of the OSHA standards or the existence of a serious hazard, OSHA may issue a citation and a fine. The employer will be required to fix the problem by a certain date. Employers do have the right to appeal a citation. These appeals are heard by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act is a federal act that was enacted in an effort to provide a safer workplace for workers. The Act established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly referred to as OSHA, which is responsible for implementation and enforcement of the Act.
OSHA applies to federal agencies and most private sector employers unless a state has created an approved OSHA plan that it administers. State plans can also cover state and local government agencies.
OSHA imposes certain duties on employees and bestows certain rights on employees. In a nutshell, OSHA requires that employers provide a safe work environment free from serious hazards and abide by OSHA standards. Employees have a right to a safe workplace, a right to certain information and training and the right to file complaints with OSHA regarding violations of OSHA standards.
OSHA engages in routine surprise inspections of work facilities. If violations are discovered, employers will be cited and may be fined. If a citation is given, the employer will have to correct the violation. Employers do have the right to appeal a citation to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to:
- Explain how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) helps to make work environments safer for employees
- Outline the rights bestowed on employees by OSHA
- Indicate those who are not subject to OSHA's regulations
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