The Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) requires private employers to provide their workers a “place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees”. To aid employers, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety & Health Administration has developed rules to provide guidance. All private employers, regardless of their industry, need to be aware of the following:
1) Poster – All private employers are required to post the “Job Safety & Health: It’s the Law!” poster. This notice provides employees with information about their rights under the Act and provides them a phone number to call with questions and/or complaints. The poster is available in a variety of languages so that it can be posted in those businesses that employ individuals whose first language is not English.
2) Recordkeeping – OSHA requires employers to maintain a record of injuries and illnesses that occurred during the year. There are specific forms that must be used to maintain this information. Key data the employer must report on this log includes the date and a description of the injury, where the injury occurred and how many lost days of work resulted. From February 1 through April 30, the employer must post a summary of the illnesses and injuries that occurred during the previous year. The organization must keep these completed record keeping logs on file for five (5) years. NOTE: Certain industries are exempt from this record keeping requirement. Although these industries may be exempt, upon occasion, the Bureau of Labor Statistics may require an organization to complete and submit this information to them in order to generate certain workplace safety statistics that they maintain.
3) Safety & Training Programs – Depending on the type of work being performed, there are specific safety programs (including training requirements) that must be implemented. For example, a company that uses hazardous chemicals in their business must maintain written Hazard Communication Plan and must conduct training for employees that may come into contact with those chemicals at hire and annually thereafter. The training includes the types of chemicals used, hazards those chemicals may present and what the employee must do if he or she is exposed to those chemicals.
Similarly, a business where employees operate certain machinery must be trained in lockout/tagout procedures. Certain machines and equipment may be sources of electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal or other sources of energy. The unexpected startup or release of stored energy during the service or maintenance of this machinery/equipment can cause serious injury or even death to workers. Proper tagging and locking of machinery/equipment can prevent this type of event from occurring.
The OSHA website contains comprehensive information on a myriad of topics including fact sheets and training materials.
4) Medical Records – OSHA requires that employers maintain exposure and medical records for the duration of employment plus 30 (thirty) years. OSHA states that: “Employee medical record means a record concerning the health status of an employee which is made or maintained by a physician, nurse, or other health care personnel, or technician, including: Medical and employment questionnaires or histories (including job description and occupational exposures).”
Additionally, employees have a right to access their medical records (including copies). OSHA’s Access to Medical Records and Exposure contains comprehensive information about this requirement.
Although OSHA doesn’t specifically state how these records are to be maintained, employers are reminded that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that employers keep all medical records and information confidential and in separate medical files.
Employee safety should become part of your business’ culture. The OSHA website provides employers with pamphlets, brochures, fact sheets, and many other resources to help organizations maintain a safe work environment.
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