Helpful Summary of OSHA Regulations and Requirements

The Occupational and Safety Administration (OSHA) has been assigned two primary functions by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. Those functions are to set standards in the workplace, as well as to implement inspections to be sure that employers provide a safe work environment. In some cases, employers may need to change various practices and processes in order to comply with the accepted standards. Employers are required to know and comply with the OSHA standards. This may involve ensuring that employees use protective equipment along with complying with the rules that are applicable to them. The work environment must be kept free of hazards that could cause serious harm to employees.

Standards and Regulations

Statewide standards must be equivalent to or more effective than federal standards. There are four primary categories of federal standards: agriculture, construction, general industry, and maritime. Standards with requirements applicable to multiple industries include those associated with protective equipment, hazard communication, and exposure and medical records. Some practices fall into the category of regulation instead of standard, and these include the areas of reporting, posting, and recordkeeping.

Employee Rights

The OSH Act grants employees a variety of key rights. These rights include registering complaints to OSHA regarding the health and safety conditions in their work environment, as well as the right to confidentiality when making such complaints. Employees may also contest the time limitations set by OSHA for making the appropriate corrections, and they also have the right to be present and to participate when workplace inspections are implemented by the Administration. The OSH Act extends to most employees (the exceptions are local and state government employees, as well as individuals who are self-employed).    

Employer Responsibilities

Employers covered by the Act must provide their workers with training in OSHA standards, and they are required to prominently display the OSHA poster 3165, which informs workers of their responsibilities and rights. They may not discriminate against workers exercising their rights as mandated by the OSH Act. They must also provide equipment and tools that are properly maintained. They are required to provide employees with medical examinations and access to their own exposure and medical records. Employers must reply to requests for data surveys from representatives of OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They need to report fatal accidents and accidents that lead to hospitalization, and such reports must be made to the Administration within an eight-hour time frame. Records must be kept on illnesses, injuries, and accidents related to the workplace. Employers must cease making cited violations within a set period of time, and they need to post both citations and verification of abatement notices near or at the worksite.

Employer Rights

OSHA-regulated employers may request that Administration compliance workers provide identification, and they can also request to see an inspection warrant. They must be given a reason for inspections, and such inspections should include opening and closing meetings with compliance workers. They are allowed to observe inspections if they wish. Employers can officially contest proposed penalties as well as citations. They may apply for variances of standard requirements in some cases. Trade secret confidentiality is another right of employers, and employers can submit requests in writing for information on toxic substances in the workplace.

Employee Rights

Under Administration standards, employees have the right to review the requirements, regulations, and standards of OSHA, which should be provided by their employers. They can request information on emergency procedures from their employers. They must receive sufficient health and safety training on toxic substances. Employees can ask an area director who works for OSHA to issue an investigation on standard violations or conditions that are hazardous. Employees also have the right to be told about Administration actions regarding complaints, and they have the right to have their names withheld in association with filing such complaints. They may observe measuring or monitoring of toxic substances, and they can also review employer-maintained information on illnesses and injuries that are related to work. They can contest abatement periods issued to employers, and they have the right to seek a safe work environment without being subjected to employer retaliation.   

People who require assistance might start by consulting the Federal Register for further information. Information may also be obtained via the OSHA website. Employers can explore safety training courses for themselves and their employees, as well.   

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