The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires that employers provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers.
The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training, and assistance to workers and employers.
The mission of OSHA is to save lives, prevent injuries and protect the health of America’s workers. The OSH Act states that workers have the right to a safe workplace and that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide safe and healthy workplaces.
OSHA and its state partners have approximately 2100 inspectors, plus complaint discrimination investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standards writers, and other technical and support personnel spread over more than 200 offices throughout the country. This staff establishes protective standards, enforces those standards, and reaches out to employers and employees through technical assistance and consultation programs.
Some of the things OSHA does to carry out its mission are:
- Developing job safety and health standards and enforcing them through worksite inspections
- Providing training programs to increase knowledge about occupational safety and health
Today, although occupational safety has come a long way, too many employees are still being injured and killed on the job. Let’s look at some recent statistics:
- 5,190 workers were killed on the job in all sectors in 2016.
- An average of nearly 13 workers die every day.
- 2,857,400 recordable workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2016.
Why Is OSHA Important in a Company?
Small businesses and large corporations alike should understand OSHA’s importance. Following OSHA standards does not only lead to a safer workplace but also results in greater productivity and profitability for your business.
The creation of OSHA established safety guidelines for businesses across the United States. Companies must follow safe work practices, provide protective equipment, and train all employees regarding hazards and safety policies and procedures. Managers must have proper training, the ability to oversee and enforce safety regulations of workplace safety organizations and understand how to handle emergency incidents.
Workplace Safety Benefits
OSHA’s importance is evident in the effects the law has had on workplace safety. Although U.S. employment has almost doubled, workplace fatalities have consistently gone down since OSHA’s inception. For example, there were about 5,333 worker deaths in 2019 or about 15 worker deaths per day. By comparison, 38 workers died each day in 1970. Occupational injury and illness rates have also lowered noticeably. In 1972 the workforce experienced about 10.9 incidents per 100 workers as compared to 2.8 per 100 workers in 2019.
Compliance with OSHA regulations along with implementing your own well-designed safety program can save your business money. Accidents and injuries occurring on the job can result in major medical and legal expenses. Training your employees and having a program in place can prevent these costly incidents from occurring. Maintaining a safe environment for your workers rewards you with increased productivity and higher morale as well.
Train your employees in advance on how to handle OSHA inspections. Inspectors may have questions regarding safety practices so have a designated point-of-contact to answer them. Let your employees know what to expect in case of an incident to avoid confusion during a potentially critical situation.
OSHA conducted 33,393 federal inspections in 2019 and 42,063 state inspections in 2019. These examinations include inspections of the actual work sites and safety procedures as well as recording known or possible hazards identified. OSHA must also investigate all injuries and illnesses as they occur. This helps reduce future incidents, with research showing companies where an inspection took place experienced a lower number of workers’ compensation claims.
Penalties and Citations
OSHA enforces its regulations by using citations and penalties as a deterrent. Penalties are determined by severity and probability of injury, according to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Businesses found not in compliance with OSHA regulations have a limited time to pay or appeal their citation. Those who fail to do so face stiff penalties or costly consequences. Having a citation on your record could affect your ability to bid for jobs and government contracts.
To avoid penalties, contact OSHA to find out which safety standards apply to your particular business and then implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance. Review your safety policy often for relevancy and train your employees appropriately. Post safety regulations and notices in visible areas and update them as necessary.