More than 13 workers died from workplace injuries every day in 2014. In addition, there were almost 3 million non-fatal injuries on the job for the year. For many Americans, going to work each day is a dangerous proposition.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act places responsibilities on employers to make their workplaces as safe as possible. These responsibilities include:
- Provide a workplace free from recognized serious hazards, whether they be slippery walking surfaces, electrical hazards, heavy materials, or explosive substances.
- Comply with the standards, rules and regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These vary by the type of operation. Employers should become familiar with those that apply to their particular industries.
- Make sure employees have and use well-maintained, safe tools and equipment. Repair or replace tools and equipment that are showing signs of wear.
- Warn employees of potential hazards. These warnings can take the form of anything attention-grabbing, such as signs, posters, colored codes and labels.
- Create written operating procedures and update them as necessary. These procedures should address health and safety issues. Make sure employees know them.
- Provide safety training to employees in forms they can understand. That may mean providing it in multiple languages.
- Some workplaces use hazardous chemicals. If so, the employers must develop and implement written hazard communication programs. They must train employees on the proper precautions to take. Material safety data sheets on these substances should be available upon demand.
- OSHA standards may require some employers to provide employees with medical exams and training.
- OSHA has created a poster about employee rights and responsibilities. Employers must display it in a prominent place.
- Promptly report to OSHA all work-related deaths and serious injuries. Fatalities must be reported within eight hours; other injuries requiring hospitalization must be reported within a day. OSHA has a toll-free phone number for reporting.
- Most employers with more than 10 employees must keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- Current and former employees and their representatives must be given access to the injury log. From February 1 to May 1 each year, employers must post a summary of the injury log.
- Provide employees or their representatives with access to medical and exposure records.
- Give OSHA compliance officers the names of employee representatives who may accompany them during inspections.
- Do not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the OSH Act.
- Post OSHA citations at or near the work area involved in the citation. Keep them posted until the problem is corrected or for three days, whichever is longer.
- Correct cited violations by the deadline set in the OSHA citation. Submit to OSHA any required documentation of abatement verification.
- Consider adopting Injury and Illness Prevention Programs. OSHA offers samples of these programs on its Web site. Many insurance companies offer them as well.
Some occupations will never be completely safe. However, the law requires employers to protect their workers to the extent possible. Following the law will help keep workers safe, morale high, and costs low.