OSHA Employer Compliance
In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act or OSHA that is a comprehensive law designed to reduce workplace hazards and to improve health and safety programs for workers. It broadly requires employers to provide a workplace free of physical dangers and to meet specific health and safety standards. Employers must also provide safety training to employees, inform them about hazardous chemicals, notify government administrators about serious workplace accidents, and keep detailed safety records.
Although there can be heavy penalties for not complying with OSHA, such penalties are usually reserved for extreme cases in which workplace conditions are highly dangerous and the employer has ignored warning about them. If one’s workplace is inspected, OSHA will work with them to eliminate the hazards.
Usually, an employer must comply with the Act if his business affects interstate commerce. The legal definition of interstate commerce is so broad that almost all businesses are covered. OSHA does not apply to a workplace if one is self-employed and has no employees, one’s business is a farm that employs only his immediate family members, or one is in a business such as mining, which is already regulated by other federal safety laws.
OSHA Safety Standards
OSHA sets a general standard for all covered businesses. The employer must provide a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.” Recognized hazards are not clearly defined,which can make it difficult for the employer to know how to comply with the law. The broad language covers an almost impossible large range of potential harm—from sharp objects that might cause cuts to radiation exposure.
In the Act, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—also called OSHA—as a unit of the U.S. Department of Labor. Congress authorized this agency to set additional workplace standards, which it has done in great profusion. The specific standards cover a wide range or workplace concerns, including: