Workplace safety and welfare regulations originated when the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 became law. The creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, gave the agency authority and responsibility to establish and enforce job safety and health regulations. These federal regulations apply to all places of employment in the private sector, with a few exceptions, and cover a wide range of worker safety issues.
OSHA is primarily responsible for enforcing safety and health regulations. However, some states have enforcement authority through OSHA-approved programs. These states set their own safety and health standards, which are as least as effective as federal standards. Most states adopt standards identical to federal standards, but have the option to cover issues not addressed by OSHA. Employers in states with approved programs must be familiar with both federal and state requirements.
OSHA regulations define minimum requirements for workplace safety. These rules address issues such as safe walking and working surfaces, emergency exit routes and exposure to occupational noise. The regulations also require annual reporting of job-related injuries and illnesses, and a summary posting of this information in the workplace from February through April each year. Other required postings include OSHA citations and a standard “It’s the Law" poster that communicates employee and employer rights and responsibilities. Postings must be visible to all employees.
Employers are responsible for complying with OSHA regulations and ensuring a safe workplace. To accomplish this, they must identify hazards and eliminate or minimize them so that employees can do their jobs without getting hurt. OSHA recommends eliminating hazards where feasible, or implementing safety procedures and personal protective equipment as the next best options. Employers must train employees on regulatory requirements, safe work practices and the proper way to use protective equipment, when required.
The premise of safety and welfare regulations is an employee’s right to a safe workplace. Employees have the right to know the OSHA regulations that apply to their workplace, the hazards associated with their workplace and the means for protection. If personal protective equipment is required, employees have a right to receive this equipment at no cost. Additionally, employees have the right to report and discuss any safety concerns or issues with without fear of retaliation.
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