OSHA is an acronym for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. It was created in 1970 by the Congress under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and was signed by President Richard M. Nixon (United States Department of Labor). Since its establishment, OSHA has been effective in reducing the number of serious workplaces related injuries, illness, and deaths.
History of OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of 1970 marked the era of protecting workers from harm at their places of work. It was signed into law on 29 December 1970, by President Nixon and is registered as Pub. L. No. 91-596, 84 Stat. 1590 and codified at 29 U.S.C. §§ 651-678 (United States Department of Labor). After its signing, the Secretary of Labor created a new division called Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the Labor Department. OSHA is headed by an Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health (Stricoff and Groover 17). It mainly ensures that every employee has a safe working environment. Prior to its establishment, officials in the Labor Department had a limited scope in the regulation of safety in the workplace; therefore, its creation enabled them to reduce occupational hazards.
Purpose of OSHA
The main objective of OSHA is ensuring all employees have a safe and healthy workplace. It covers most public and private sector employers and workers in 50 states and the United States territories and jurisdictions that are under the federal authority. To achieve its objectives, OSHA has rules that govern how employees and employers relate with each other with regards to workplace safety. According to the OSHA law, the latter must establish a work environment that does not have serious occupational hazards to their workers. In particular, they must be proactive in correcting safety and health related problems. In addition, they must find ways of replacing unsafe working conditions (Clarke et al. 72). For example, they can switch from hazardous chemicals to ones that are safer. Among workers, OSHA ensures that they have the right to safe working conditions. Moreover, if their workplaces do not meet OSHA’s regulations, they can file a complaint requiring their workplace to be inspected. They also have the right to receive training and information about all hazards in their places of work and methods of preventing harm.
There are numerous OSHA standards, some of the common ones include:
- Exit Routes, Emergency Action Plans, and Fire Prevention Plans
- Hazard Communication Standard
- Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution Standard (United States Department of Labor)
The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)), requires all chemical manufacturers, distributors, and importers to issue Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical to final users (Stricoff and Groover 17). SDS are written in a consistent and user-friendly manner to enable workers who handle chemicals to understand its contents. Importantly, the SDS has information about the properties of each chemical, its physical, health, and environmental hazards. It also has information about the safe handling practices when storing, transporting, or disposing of them (United States Department of Labor). The Exit Routes, Emergency Action Plans, and Fire Prevention Plans requires organizations to inform employees about the emergencies that may occur in the workplace. In addition, they must communicate to their workers of the possible action plans in case of such situations. This standard also requires employers to inform their workers of possible emergency evacuation plans (Hopwood and Steve Thompson 57). The Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution Standard refers to measures that are designed to protect workers from electric current, short circuits, electromagnetic fields, and static electricity (United States Department of Labor). In order for this regulation to remain relevant and be concise, OSHA has progressively revised it in accordance with the changes in the electricity industry.
Violation of OSHA Laws by Sunfield Inc.
In 2016, Sunfield Inc. was fined $3.42 million for willful violation of OSHA laws. The failure by the company to adhere to these regulations made two workers sustain severe injuries in January and February. The company had failed to train its workers on how to safely operate machine presses and it did not service its equipment’s according to OSHA’s regulations. OSHA cited that Sunfield Inc. had made 46 egregious willful, two willful, one repeat, and eight severe safety violations (Musick). Consequently, it was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violation Enforcement Program. These expensive penalties show OSHA’s determination in ensuring that its regulations are strictly followed by all employers.
Clarke, Sharon, et al. The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Occupational Safety and Workplace Health. 1st ed., Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.
Hopwood, Dan, and Steve Thompson. Workplace Safety: A Guide for Small and Midsized Companies. Aspen Risk Management Group, 2014.
Musick, Tom. OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations for 2016. Safety + Health, www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/14927-2016-oshas-top-10-most-cited-violations?page=2. Accessed 2 Sept. 2017.
Stricoff, Scott, and Donald Groover. The Manager’s Guide to Workplace Safety. Safety in Action Press, 2012.
United States Department of Labor. “Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owasrch.search_form?p_doc_type=INTERPRETATIONS&p_toc_level=0. Accessed 2 September 2017.