What is OSHA: Topic 3 - What responsibilities does your employer have under OSHA?
A. Provide a Workplace Free from Recognized Hazards and Comply with OSHA Standards
Establishing a safe and healthful workplace requires every employer to make safety and health a priority. In general, OSHA requires employers to:
- Maintain conditions and adopt practices reasonably necessary to protect workers on the job. The first and best strategy is to control the hazard at its source. Engineering controls do this, unlike other controls that generally focus on the worker who is exposed to the hazard. The basic concept behind engineering controls is that, to the extent feasible, the work environment and the job itself should be designed to eliminate hazards or reduce exposure to hazards.
- Be familiar with the standards that apply to their workplaces, and comply with these standards.
- Ensure that workers are provided with, and use, personal protective equipment, when needed. [When exposure to hazards cannot be engineered completely out of normal operations or maintenance work, and when safe work practices and other forms of administrative controls cannot provide sufficient additional protection, an additional method of control is the use of protective clothing or equipment. This is collectively called personal protective equipment, or PPE. PPE may also be appropriate for controlling hazards while engineering and work practice controls are being installed.], and
- Comply with the OSH Act’s “General Duty Clause” where no specific standards apply. [The general duty clause, or Section 5(a)(1) of the Act requires each employer to “furnish a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”]
B. Provide Training Required by OSHA Standards
We already discussed your right to receive training from your employer on a variety of health and safety hazards and standards, such as chemical right to know, fall protection, confined spaces and personal protective equipment.
Many OSHA standards specifically require the employer to train workers in the safety and health aspects of their jobs. Other OSHA standards make it the employer’s responsibility to limit certain job assignments to those who are “certified,” “competent,” or “qualified”—meaning that they have had special previous training, in or out of the workplace.
OSHA believes that training is an essential part of protecting workers from injuries and illnesses.
OSHA construction standards include a general training requirement, which states:
“The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.”
Additional general training requirements for construction include training for workers:
- required to handle or use poisons, caustics, and other harmful substances;
- who may be exposed to job sites where harmful plants or animals are present;
- required to handle or use flammable liquids, gases, or toxic materials; or
- required to enter into confined or enclosed spaces.
There are also more specific training requirements, particularly in standards put into effect since 1990. For example, OSHA’s scaffold standard and fall protection standard each has a separate section on training requirements that is intended to clarify the general training requirements in 1926.21(b)(2).
The scaffold requirement says that employers shall have each employee who performs work while on a scaffold trained by a person qualified in the subject matter to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and to understand the procedures to control or minimize those hazards. It goes into detail about what the training must cover. The fall protection standard has similar requirements.
OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard applies to both General Industry and Construction workers and requires that employers provide workers with effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area at the time of their initial assignment, and whenever a new physical or health hazard is introduced. In addition, as we discussed earlier, chemical-specific information must always be available through labels and safety data sheets (SDSs).
OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing these exposures to acceptable levels. Employers are required to determine if PPE should be used to protect their workers.
If PPE is to be used, a PPE program should be implemented. This program should address the hazards present; the selection, maintenance, and use of PPE; the training of employees; and monitoring of the program to ensure its ongoing effectiveness. 1910.132(f) (which applies to General Industry workplaces) contains detailed training requirements for workers who must wear or use PPE.
C. Keep Records of Injuries and Illnesses
- Set up a reporting system
- Provide copies of logs, upon request
- Post the annual summary
- Report within 8 hours any accident resulting in a fatality or the hospitalization of 3 or more workers
Recordkeeping is an important part of an employer’s responsibilities. Keeping records allows OSHA to collect survey material, helps OSHA identify high-hazard industries, and informs you, the worker, about the injuries and illnesses in your workplace. About 1.5 million employers with 11 or more employees-20 percent of the establishments OSHA covers-must keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. Workplaces in low-hazard industries such as retail, service, finance, insurance, and real estate are exempt from recordkeeping requirements.
For specific information on exactly which cases must be recorded, you can go to Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1904–“Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.” The forms your employer must keep are:
- The Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (commonly called the OSHA 300 Log) is used to list injuries and illnesses and track days away from work, restricted, or transferred.
- The Injury and Illness Report (Form 301) is used to record more information about each case. Employers can use a workers’ compensation or insurance form, if it contains the same information.
- The Summary (OSHA Form 300A) shows the totals for the year in each category. A company executive must certify that he or she has examined the OSHA Log and believes that the annual summary is correct and complete. The summary must be posted from February 1 to April 30 of each year in a place where notices to workers are usually posted, such as an employee bulletin board.
D. Provide Medical Exams when Required by OSHA Standards and Provide Workers Access to their Exposure and Medical Records
We discussed access to medical records earlier when covering worker rights. When you are working with chemicals or other hazardous substances, your employer may be required to conduct monitoring or provide medical examinations that involve you. An example of this would be if you are working with lead, such as removing or stripping substantial quantities of lead-based paints on large bridges and other structures. Plumbers, welders, and painters are among those workers most exposed to lead. Your employer must give you copies of medical or exposure records involving you if you request them.
E. Not Discriminate Against Workers who Exercise their Rights under the Act (Section 11(c))
Section 11(c) of the Act prohibits your employer from discharging or in any manner retaliating against you or any worker for exercising your rights under the Act. We’ve covered many of your rights under OSHA earlier. Can you recall some of them? Depending upon the circumstances of the case, "discrimination" can include: firing or laying off; demoting; denying overtime or promotion; disciplining; reducing pay or hours, and other actions. If you believe your employer has discriminated against you because you exercised your safety and health rights, contact your local OSHA Office right away. The OSH Act gives you only 30 days to report discrimination.
F. Post OSHA Citations and Abatement Verification Notices
An OSHA citation informs the employer and workers of the standards violated, the length of time set for correction, and proposed penalties resulting from an OSHA inspection. Your employer must post a copy of each citation at or near places where the violations occurred for 3 days, or until the violation is fixed (whichever is longer). Employers also have to inform workers of what they have done to fix the violation, allow workers to examine and copy abatement documents sent to OSHA, and tag cited movable equipment to warn workers of the hazard.
G. Provide and Pay for PPE
As we mentioned earlier, OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing these exposures to acceptable levels.
Employers are required to determine if PPE should be used to protect their workers. OSHA also requires that employers pay for most required PPE, except for uniforms, items worn to keep clean, weather-related gear, logging boots, and non-specialty safety toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or steel-toe boots) and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear, as long as the employer permits the items to be worn off the job-site.