The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) evolved from the OSH Act of 1970. OSHA falls under the auspices of the United States Department of Labor, and ultimately reports to the Secretary of Labor, a member of the President’s cabinet. OSHA is currently run by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, David Michaels, PhD, MPH, the 12th person to hold that position.
Considering the expansion of the US economy over 40 years—which in the last four decades includes more than twice as many people in the workforce, The OSH Act has been fairly effective. In 1970 there were approximately 78.5M people in the US workforce, compared to about 143M in 2012, yet workplace fatalities are down 65% and occupational injuries and illness have dropped 67%....not too shabby!
Congress invoked the Occupational Safety and Health ACT to ensure safe working environments, which included the obligation for employers to provide necessary information about hazards and conditions that could lead to injury, illness or death on the job. OSHA, either directly through its federal program, or through OSHA-approved state programs, mandates rules for safety and protection that employers must follow. The reduction in fatalities, illness and injuries benefits both employee and employer alike. In addition to the obvious human health benefits of avoiding workplace accidents, monetary pay off include reductions in workers compensation claims and lost work days. Many believe that a safer work environment translates directly into higher morale and productivity.
But OSHA has also empowered workers to take action against unsafe work situations. Workers have the means and methods to speak up against conditions deemed not safe, or any working conditions that instill fear or trepidation. OSHA regulations protect the employee from any reprisals or adverse actions from raising safety issues that result in company fines or disciplinary actions. Under Section 11 (c) of the OSH Act, an employer may not do any of the following in such cases:
▪ Fire or lay off
▪ Deny overtime or promotions
▪ Disciplinary action
▪ Deny benefits
▪ Refuse to rehire or hire
▪ Reassign job causing reduction or elimination of advancement
▪ Reduce pay
There are still improvements needed to make conditions even safer and more work to be done to prevent accidents and continue the statistical decline. Much of that starts with the employer, so OSHA has stepped up inspection frequencies in the past few years and companies should be compliance ready.
If your company needs advice or has received a citation, Emilcott’s staff of Environment, Health and Safety experts can assist.