In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stipulates that employers must “provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.”
Interestingly, the OSH Act itself contains no regulations on Occupational Health and Safety. OSHA, however, has promulgated countless regulations under the authority granted to it by the Act. These regulations cover virtually every conceivable health or safety hazard in the workplace.
Among their many requirements under the OSH Act, employers must:
- examine their workplace conditions to make sure they conform to the standards that apply to them
- make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain this equipment
- establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements
- keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. 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 a log of work-related injuries and illnesses
- provide access to employee medical records and exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives, and
- provide an annual report that summarizes injuries/illnesses, including not only lost-time accidents, but also restricted work duty cases, and any incident that needed medical attention.
Regulations are grouped into the categories of:
- General Industry
- State Plans
The General Industry category applies to such sectors as manufacturing, wholesale and retail. It may also supplement those standards that are created for specific industries. It covers such requirements as Hazard Communication, Emergency Action Plans, Fire Safety, Exit Routes, Walking/Working Surfaces, and Medical and First Aid.
Other requirements that commonly apply to workplaces include Machine Guarding, Lockout/Tagout (which addresses the practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment, thereby preventing the release of hazardous energy while employees perform servicing and maintenance activities), Electrical Hazards, Personal Protective Equipment, Respirators, Noise, Confined Spaces, Blood or Bodily Fluids, and Powered Industrial Trucks.
Construction regulations include those specific to this industry, including Fall protection (which consistently accounts for the greatest number of fatalities in construction), Stairways and Ladders, Scaffolding, Electrical, Trenching and Excavation, and Motor Vehicle Safety/Highway Work Zones.
Specific Maritime standards include Shipyard Employment, Marine Terminals, Longshoring and Gear Certification. Agriculture-specific standards include roll-over protective structures for tractors, protective frames for wheel-type agricultural tractors, protective enclosures for wheel-type agricultural tractors, and guarding of farm field equipment.
OSHA’s Recordkeeping regulation requires certain employers to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses using an OSHA 300 Log. Two classes of employers are exempt from routinely keeping injury and illness records: employers with 10 or fewer employees at all times during the previous calendar year and establishments in certain low-hazard industries, a list of which OSHA regularly maintains.
Employers must report any worker fatality within eight hours and any amputation, loss of an eye or hospitalization of a worker within 24 hours. There is no need to report minor injuries requiring first aid only.
The records must be maintained at the worksite for at least five years. Each February through April, employers must post a summary of the injuries and illnesses recorded during the previous year using Form 300A. Also, if requested, copies of the records must be provided to current and former employees, or their representatives.
If an injury or illness is recordable, an employer must complete a supplementary form. This can be an OSHA Form 301 or a similar document that contains the same information, such as an insurance claim report, a state workers’ compensation report, or an employer’s accident report form.
Learn more about the Health and Safety compliance process in the Intelex Insight Report, Taking the Headache Out of the Health & Safety Compliance Process – available for free download today.