Everything You Need to Know About OSHA
Signed into existence by President Lyndon Johnson in around 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act has proven to become critical and monumental to the American workplace as a regulatory program that safeguards worker’s rights. The primary aim of the agency created under the act that was established just a year after, similarly, named OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is to guarantee a healthy and safe working conditions for Americans across the board through implementing standards and providing establishments and workers the means to comply to them via training, outreach, education, and assistance.
The presence of the regulatory agency has provided guarantee and relief for workers, and productivity for establishments around the country. The resources alone that the agency provides for businesses whether they are big or small is a valuable asset to reduce worksite injuries and the lawsuits associated with such incidents. This makes OSHA compliance single-handedly powerful when it comes to ensuring that the American workplace is attractive for workers within the county.
Several milestones have been achieved since the creation of OSHA some of these are:
- Worksite casualties due to accidents have been halved
- Occupational hazards which cover injury and illnesses have plummeted by 40%
- Employment in the American soil has increased “from 3.5 million worksites to 105 million workers at approximately 6.9 million sites”
What kind of resources does OSHA provide for employers?
Given that the agency covers most of the private sector, it acknowledges the fact that not all businesses are big enough to bear the full brunt of OSHA’s standards or are just too new to know where to start, especially when it comes to matters of hazard detection and the like. OSHA provides resources that are designed specifically for this purpose. For small to medium enterprises, OSHA guarantees:
- A free and confidential On-Site Consultation Program that prioritizes worksites with a prone to high amounts of hazards. This program allows employers to identify potential hazards, optimize the workplace to improve existing efforts to guard against these hazards, and in some cases, be given a year of exemption from routine inspections.
- Free publications and guidance when it comes to national emergency-related hazards such as COVID-19. This way, establishments and employers could find a credible source of information that is immediately packaged with guidelines of what to do.
- A library of publications which includes various topics for different kinds of industries that are available to different platforms, and is written in English as well as in Spanish to increase accessibility.
How can a company achieve compliance with OSHA?
As previously mentioned, OSHA’s prime responsibility is to standardize the level of protection around worksites across the country. These are standard operating procedures and protocols that apply to various industries with separate specifications for the construction, maritime, and agricultural industry.
However, for the general industry, OSHA primarily checks for:
- State of the walking-working surfaces such as stairways, ladders, etc.
- Adoption of federal established federal standards regarding matters like shipyard employment, provisions for air contaminants, etc.
- Exit routes for emergency situations, fire prevention plans, structural design, and compliance with exit-route codes
- State of vehicle-mounted platforms such as manlifts and other powered platforms
- Health and environmental Control such as ventilation and noise exposure
- Mechanisms when dealing with, handling, and disposing hazardous materials such as compressed gases and hazardous wastes (contaminated objects, sharps, toxic chemicals, etc.) and respective emergency responses after an exposure.
- The presence of personal protective equipment where it is needed such as eye and face protection, respiratory protection, head protection, etc.
- General environmental controls such as the color coding of wastes, frequency and standards of sanitation
- Fire protection compliance
- Presence of first aid kits and medical response
Other than these standards, OSHA also has an expansive requirement when it comes to recordkeeping, whistleblowing, and mechanisms that ensure that filing grievances is a smooth process that can be immediately accommodated.
In light of these standards, employers are then required to:
- Provide a worksite that is safe from serious hazards as well as one that follows the protocols that OSHA has set.
- Establish operating procedures and constantly evaluate and update these worksites to guarantee the continued compliance to these standards and further, evolving standards that may be added.
- Provide medical examinations and required training initiatives in a manner that is accessible to employees especially in the aspects of language and vocabulary.
- Report work-related fatalities within eight hours after the incident; and within 24 hours, all amputations, losses of an eye, and work-related hospitalizations to the nearest OSHA office.
- Make the employee’s medical records and exposure records accessible to authorized representatives in instances where it is necessary.
- Ensure that there are no discriminations against employees that exercise their rights under OSHA’s whistleblower protection protocols.
- Keep records of work-related accidents, injuries, and illnesses; and provide access to the first three months of these records to employees and former employees.
- Correct cited violations according to OSHA’s prescribed deadline alongside submitting the required documentation.
What are the most frequent citations of violations?
Though resources are provided by OSHA, ensuring worker protection is still a process that a lot of establishments miss out on. Prior to the pandemic era, in the year 2019, the most frequently cited violations of OSHA compliance requirements are:
- Failure to protect employees in construction worksites
- Inability to comply to the general industry’s hazard communication standard
- Inability to provide safe scaffolding that is up to the standards of OSHA’s general requirements in the construction industry
- Lackluster control of hazardous energy under general industry requirements
- Failure to provide base-level of respiratory protection under the general industry standards
As such, these are improvements that are necessary across construction sites and within the general industry. In fact, the biggest violation cited as of 2019 involved a construction company that was being fined for a total of $1,792,726 USD due to willful and serious violations which involved the death of one employee among other fatalities.