Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Workers’ compensation insurance is mandated by each individual state and there is a separate set of workers compensation laws for employees that work outside states on navigable waters. There is also Federal regulation involved in workplace safety through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is an agency within the Department of Labor. OSHA covers nearly all employers in the private sector, regardless of what state workers’ compensation laws they fall under.

In 1970, the federal act best known in the area of workplace safety was passed and called the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency within the Department of Labor that is responsible for establishing safety standards and enforcing compliance by inspecting places of employment. OSHA provides consultation, training and information services for employers and employees and publishes statistics concerning the incidence, severity and causes of occupational injuries and illnesses. OSHA creates partnerships and alliances with businesses and associations to promote safety and attempts to quantify bottom line savings to employers.

Compliance. Compliance with OSHA standards is obtained through inspections and voluntary actions by employees. Inspections by OSHA are scheduled to:

  1. Investigate claims of imminent danger and employee complaints alleging serious workplace hazards

  2. Investigate work site accidents that result in fatalities or the hospitalization of five or more workers

  3. Conduct programmed inspections of workplaces in high hazard industries

  4. Investigate complaints of discriminatory actions against employees

Record Keeping. OSHA has established certain record keeping requirements for recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses.

Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). OSHA has established what are known as Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), which are intended to recognize outstanding safety programs developed by employers. These programs typically include management systems for controlling and preventing occupational hazards. They differ from conventional OSHA programs in that their objective is to protect the work site as well as the people working there. OSHA will regard an employer safety program as being effective, generally, when it is deemed appropriate for the kind of risks associated with that business or occupation and when it protects workers from actual hazards and the potential for significant risk.

Employee Responsibilities and Rights Under OSHA. The Department of Labor has identified the following responsibilities of employees under OSHA:

  1. Read the OSHA poster at the job site.

  2. Comply with all applicable OSHA standards.

  3. Follow all employer safety and health rules and regulations and wear or use prescribed protective equipment while engaged in work.

  4. Report hazardous conditions to supervisors.

  5. Report any job-related injury or illness to the employer and seek treatment promptly.

  6. Cooperate with an OSHA compliance officer conducting an inspection if he/she inquires about safety and health conditions in the workplace.

  7. Exercise the employee’s rights under the act in a responsible manner.

Employees also have certain rights under OSHA. Employees have a right to review copies of all appropriate OSHA standards, rules and regulations binding on the employer. The employer is obligated to have those standards available for inspection. An employee has the right to receive information from the employer on precautions that must be taken or procedures to be followed if the employee is involved in an accident or exposed to toxic substances. All employees are entitled to proper training on workplace safety and to request OSHA to conduct an investigation to determine possible violations of safety standards.

Employers are prohibited from punishing or discriminating against workers for exercising their rights under the act. In order to provide additional protection to the employee, an employee’s name may be withheld from the employer, upon request, fol¬lowing the employee’s filing of an official complaint. Employees have the right to have an employee representative present during a compliance officer’s inspection, to respond to questions from an OSHA compliance officer during such inspection, and to request a closing discussion with the compliance officer following the inspection.