The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also known as OSHA is the federal agency that establishes and enforces the standards for workplace health and safety.
Understanding the basics of OSHA is a critical first step to establishing your company's safety program. Compliance with OSHA standards can help reduce fines but more importantly help you to keep your employees safe.
OSHA is Established
Established in 1970, OSHA defines its mission:
"to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance."*
As an agency under the Department of Labor, OSHA standards, regulations, onsite inspections and fines have been significant factors in the steep decline of on-the-job injuries over the last half century.**
OSHA in the Workplace
OSHA standards encompass nearly all businesses in the 50 US states, jurisdictions and territories (e.g. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). Businesses within the jurisdiction of OSHA fall under what is commonly referred to as the General Duty Clause.
The General Duty Clause (as defined by OSHA):
"Each employer -
(1) 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;
(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
(b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct."***
OSHA compliance is critical to your business operations as well as to your employees' safety. While abiding by these regulations, may not completely eliminate workplace injuries, will help to reduce the probability of one occurring. OSHA compliance is also critical for curbing fines and avoiding other forms of litigation.
Many seasoned Safety and EHS professionals are familiar with the basics of OSHA, however, it is still critical to consistently self-evaluate your safety processes to help you drive compliance. After all it is "the employers" responsibility.
While compliance with OSHA is an excellent place to begin, world-class safety programs are built by companies going even further with their standards and practices. Compliance is important but the safety of your employees matters more.