This month, as we are looking at getting “Back to _____”; we thought it was important to get back to the basics of the governing agencies that oversee labor and employment in our country. The agency which ensures employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace is the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. OSHA’s mission is to assure safe and healthful workplaces by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.
“In 1970, the United States Congress and President Richard Nixon created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a national public health agency dedicated to the basic proposition that no worker should have to choose between their life and their job. The OSHA law makes it clear that the right to a safe workplace is a basic human right.
Since OSHA’s first day on the job, the agency has delivered remarkable progress for our nation. Workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths have fallen dramatically. Together with our state partners, OSHA has tackled deadly safety hazards and health risks. We have established common sense standards and enforced the law against those who put workers at risk. Our standards, enforcement actions, compliance assistance and cooperative programs have saved thousands of lives and prevented countless injuries and illnesses.
Looking to the future, OSHA is committed to protecting workers from toxic chemicals and deadly safety hazards at work, ensuring that vulnerable workers in high-risk jobs have access to critical information and education about job hazards, and providing employers with vigorous compliance assistance to promote best practices that can save lives.
Although our task is far from complete, our progress gives us hope and confidence that OSHA will continue to make a lasting difference in the lives of our nation’s 130 million workers, their families and their communities.” http://www.osha.gov/Publications/3302-06N-2006-English.html
Rights and Responsibilities under OSHA Law
Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers MUST provide their workers with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and must follow all OSHA safety and health standards. Employers must find and correct safety and health problems. OSHA further requires that employers must first try to eliminate or reduce hazards by making feasible changes in working conditions rather than relying on personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, or earplugs. Switching to safer chemicals, enclosing processes to trap harmful fumes, or using ventilation systems to clean the air are examples of effective ways to eliminate or reduce risks.
Employers MUST also:
- Inform workers about chemical hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets and other methods.
- Provide safety training to workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand.
- Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling, required by some OSHA standards.
- Provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.*
- Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
- Post OSHA citations and injury and illness data where workers can see them.
- Notify OSHA within eight hours of a workplace fatality or when three or more workers are hospitalized (1-800-321-OSHA ).
- Prominently display the official OSHA “Job Safety and Health – It’s the Law” poster that describes rights and responsibilities under the law
- Not retaliate or discriminate against workers for using their rights under the law, including their right to report a work-related injury or illness.
* Employers must pay for most types of required personal protective equipment.
Workers have the right to:
- Work in conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- File a confidential complaint with OSHA to have their workplace inspected.
- Receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace. The training must be done in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
- Receive copies of records of work-related injuries and illnesses that occur in their workplace.
- Receive copies of the results from tests and monitoring done to find and measure hazards in their workplace.
- Receive copies of their workplace medical records.
- Participate in an OSHA inspection and speak in private with the inspector.
- File a complaint with OSHA if they have been retaliated or discriminated against by their employer as the result of requesting an inspection or using any of their other rights under the OSH Act.
- File a complaint if punished or discriminated against for acting as a “whistleblower” under the 20 additional federal laws for which OSHA has jurisdiction.
The above is just a quick snapshot into the intensive Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Please visit OSHA’s website, www.OSHA.gov, to find out more. The website also provides information on standards, enforcement, reporting and record keeping, complaint procedures, and additional assistance. In addition to having a great website full of important information, OSHA has recently introduced a mobile app for employees/employers:
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