OSHA Still Plays a Crucial Role in Worker Safety

Every worker in the U.S. has the right to a safe and a healthful workplace and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970 ensures that. The act was passed for preventing workers from being seriously harmed or worse, killed at work. According to OSH Act, it is the responsibility of the employers to provide safe, danger-free and healthy working conditions to their employees. It also created an administrative body called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA in order to set and enforce protective measures to ensure the safety and health standards of the workplace.

In addition to this, the OSHA provides information, assistance and training to employers and workers on safety measures and standards. In case an employer fails to maintain OSHA standards or if the workers believe that the workplace is vulnerable to serious hazards, they can file a complaint to OSHA for inspection.

The OSHA Standards

OSHA standards define what measures employers need to take to protect their workers from any kind of hazards, environmental or otherwise. This governing body has different workplace safety standards for different industries. For example, there are separate safety standards for general industry, construction work, maritime operations and agriculture. These standards are applicable to most worksites.

The OSHA standards or guidelines call for using certain safe equipment and practices and limit the amount of lethal chemicals employees can be exposed to. Moreover, it requires employers to monitor threats as well as record all injuries and illnesses that can occur at the workplace. For example, employers need to provide fall protection, respirators or other safety equipment. Apart from that they also need to prevent certain infectious diseases, trenching cave-ins, and the exposure of the employees to harmful substances such as asbestos. The safety measures also include putting guards on machines, and assuring the safety of workers when working in confined spaces. Most importantly, employers need to provide training to employees for performing certain potentially dangerous jobs.

Other OSHA standards require employers to comply with the OSH Act's General Duty Clause, making it mandatory to keep the workplace free of several recognized hazards. This clause plays the most important role and comes into effect when no other OSHA standard is applicable to a given hazard.

Employees Covered by OSHA and their Rights

Most employees in the U.S. are protected by the OSHA including those working in the private sector in the District of Columbia, all 50 states, and other U.S. jurisdictions though Federal OSHA or via some OSHA-approved state programs In case of state-run programs, they must be equally effective as those run by the Federal OSHA.

One U.S. territory and four other states cover only public sector workers under OSHA's jurisdiction. These include Illinois, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and the Virgin Islands, where employees working in the private sector come under the Federal OSHA's jurisdiction.

In general, state and local government workers do not fall under Federal OSHA. However, if the state where they are working has a state-run OSHA program, they will also fall under OSH Act protection. For federal government employees, the safety and health measures and standards are the same as those outlined for the private employees. Although OSHA monitors and responds to complaints made by federal workers, it does not fine federal agencies.

According to the OSHA Act, workers have the following rights:

• Workplace condition should not pose a serious safety or health risk
• Employees can ask OSHA for workplace inspection
• Employees can use their rights without the fear of any discrimination or retaliation
• Employees can receive information about the workplace condition and the OSHA standards applicable to the same
• Employees should be trained about safety and health hazards to learn how to prevent them from occurring
• Employees can access test results to determine workplace hazards
• Employees can review records of injuries and illnesses related to work
• Employees are entitles to receive copies of workers' medical records

The Role of OSHA during Catastrophic Incidents

OSHA needs to respond if any catastrophic incident occurs or is likely to occur. Assistance and support must be provided according to OSHA's statutory mission, assuring the safety and health of employees affected by or involved in the incident. Employers are primarily responsible for their workers' health and safety during the catastrophic incident.

During such incidents, OSHA exercises its authority through various phases including:

Pre-Planning: This requires the administrative body to pre-plan activities and prepare for any disastrous incident. This includes identifying and resolving issues that are likely to affect the safety and health of workers in case an incident occurs, proactive reviews, and establishing a better understanding and coordination between the OSHA and other response agencies.

Response: This includes the initial crisis management phase where OSHA works with other agencies in cooperative mode [?], technical health and safety expertise, evaluate activities ensuring that employers have been following OSHA's standards, and respond to employers or workers' requests.

Recovery: This is the consequence management phase where the role played by OSHA increases both, in scope and magnitude. It involves initiating enforcement actions as well as the continuous providing of the technical support and monitoring activities to ensure that workers safety and health issues are taken care of.

Re-Occupancy: This requires OSHA to help workers return to the worksite only when it is deemed 'safe' to return. Although this decision remains solely within the purview of the employer, the OSHA has the right to review the decision by evaluating and inspecting the workplace for possible threats. Additionally, OSHA provides direction, assistance, and enforcement to assure a safe workplace.

OSHA Safety Violations

There are several OSHA safety violations that occur every year and most of them are related to the safety of construction workers. Some of the causes that led to worker deaths (especially those working in construction sites) due to workplace hazards include falls, faulty equipment, and electrocution.

Employees having serious complaints or suspecting safety or health hazards in the workplace can also hire attorneys to help them file their complaint asking for workplace investigation.

Conclusion

While OSHA plays a crucial role in workers' safety by monitoring the safety standards of the workplace, it is the primary responsibility of the employers to provide a healthy and safe workplace to their workers. To keep the area void of any hazardous substances that can cause injury or illness. Remember that a safe and healthy workplace is the basic right of all workers, regardless of the type of work they are doing.

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