Workplace safety is everyone's responsibility. Sure, the employer has a general legal responsibility to maintain a safe workplace, but employees also have to take responsibility for their actions and follow safety regulations at all times. Employers need to keep employees updated on safety regulations that meet all federal and state standards, while employees must follow these regulations to help prevent workplace injuries.
Federal Workplace Safety Regulations
Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. This landmark law established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, which is responsible for establishing safety and health standards and related regulations at the workplace. OSHA is an agency of the Department of Labor -- and the Secretary of Labor is responsible for enforcing all current regulations, including investigating complaints by employees, and determining the need for any new regulations.
State Workplace Safety Regulations
Under OSHA, states can pass their own workplace health and safety laws and standards, but these laws must meet OSHA criteria and approval if they regulate an area that OSHA regulations directly cover. States that want to regulate areas covered by OSHA regulations must submit a plan to the Secretary of Labor for federal approval.
Employers have a responsibility to provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSHA Act. They must examine workplace conditions to make sure they conform to OSHA standards. Employers also have other responsibilities under the OSHA Act such using color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards. They must post the OSHA poster or the state-plan equivalent, informing employees of their rights and responsibilities, in a prominent workplace location. Employers must also keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses -- and make these records available to current and former employees. Under the OSHA Act, employers must ensure that employees have and use safe tools and equipment -- and properly maintain this equipment.
All employees must follow workplace health and safety regulations -- and use common sense in any potentially dangerous situation. It is not an employer's fault if an employee ignores or willfully violates accurate, current and posted safety regulations.
- United States Department of Labor: Occupational Health & Safety Administration
- Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute -- Workplace Safety
- North Carolina State University: Safety Meeting Presentation -- Employee Safety Responsibility
- United States Department of Labor: Employer Responsibilities
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.