The United States Bureau of Labor and Industry statistics show between 2003 and 2016, there were 71,778 workers killed on the job, which averages out to 5,127 workers killed each year. Legal direction covering workplace safety under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been in place since President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. If your company has a workplace fatality, it may be subject to OSHA citations and fines under this Act and subsequent Regulations.
If you are the leader of a company or a start-up (especially if you have ten or more employees), there are some basic safety management requirements you must have in place:
“Under the OSHA law, employers have a 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.
This is a short summary of key employer responsibilities:
- Provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSHA Act.
- Examine workplace conditions to make sure they conform to applicable OSHA standards.
- Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain this equipment.
- Use color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards.
- Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.
- Employers must provide safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
- Employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must develop and implement a written hazard communication program and train employees on the hazards they are exposed to and proper precautions (and a copy of safety data sheets must be readily available). See the OSHA page on Hazard Communication.
- Provide medical examinations and training when required by OSHA standards.
- Post, at a prominent location within the workplace, the OSHA poster (or the state-plan equivalent) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities.
- Report to the nearest OSHA office all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours. Call our toll-free number: 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); TTY 1-877-889-5627.
- Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. (Note: Employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers in certain low-hazard industries are exempt from this requirement.)
- Provide employees, former employees and their representatives access to the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300). On February 1, and for three months, covered employers must post the summary of the OSHA log of injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300A).
- Provide access to employee medical records and exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives.
- Provide to the OSHA compliance officer the names of authorized employee representatives who may be asked to accompany the compliance officer during an inspection.
- Not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the Act. See our “Whistleblower Protection” webpage.
- Post OSHA citations at or near the work area involved. Each citation must remain posted until the violation has been corrected, or for three working days, whichever is longer. Post abatement verification documents or tags.
- Correct cited violations by the deadline set in the OSHA citation and submit required abatement verification documentation.
- OSHA encourages all employers to adopt an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Injury and Illness Prevention Programs, known by a variety of names, are universal interventions that can substantially reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries and alleviate the associated financial burdens on U.S. workplaces. Many states have requirements or voluntary guidelines for workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Programs. Also, numerous employers in the United States already manage safety using Injury and Illness Prevention Programs, and we believe that all employers can and should do the same. Most successful Injury and Illness Prevention Programs are based on a common set of key elements. These include: management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement. OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Programs topics page contains more information including examples of programs and systems that have reduced workplace injuries and illnesses.”
OSHA goes on to state:
“Under OSHA law, workers are entitled to working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.”
“The employer must provide PPE to each employee required to use the PPE.” (Employers are also required to provide training on the proper use and care of PPE.)
“OSHA’s Construction, General Industry, Maritime and Agriculture standards protect workers from a wide range of serious hazards. Examples of OSHA standards include requirements for employers to:
- provide fall protection;
- prevent trenching cave-ins;
- prevent exposure to some infectious diseases;
- ensure the safety of workers who enter confined spaces;
- put guards on dangerous machines;
- provide respirators or other safety equipment.”
State safety standards must require companies to meet the minimum Federal requirements, but states may set additional standards to be met.
For example, in Maryland the state has defined additional standards in the following areas:
- Prohibition on Smoking in an Indoor Place of Employment
- Standard for Confined Spaces
- Standard for Personnel Platforms Suspended from Cranes, Derricks and Hoists
- Tree Care and Removal
- Occupational Exposure to Formaldehyde
- Fall Protection in Steel Erection
- Crane Safety
- Lead in Construction
- Excavations, Requirement for Protective Systems
- Standard for Field Sanitation”
OSHA also encourages employers to evaluate and include in their safety planning: guidelines for vehicle use and workplace violence. Employer safety planning for these two areas is not currently required under OSHA regulations. However, in 2016, transportation and workplace violence were the number 1 and number 2 categories, respectfully, for workplace fatalities according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Industry Statistics.
(Text in quotations came directly from OSHA website information.)
(Material for this article was researched and then presented in this format for LeadingMaryland.com by freelance business writer Michael Roney.)