Workplace health and safety is something that many employers and employees seldom think about after safety procedures are put in place. These procedures are in place to prevent workplace accidents, injuries and diseases. These processes must be “reasonably necessary and appropriate to protect workers on the job”. In addition, employees must be trained in these processes and are responsible for following them to ensure their safety on the job.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the government entity responsible for issuing regulations regarding workplace safety under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Labor (DOL). While OSHA has specific regulations for general industry, construction, maritime and agriculture, the regulations also include a “general duty” clause. This clause states that “each employer ‘shall furnish…a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees’.
While the regulations require employers to provide guidelines and the necessary equipment to maintain a safe working environment, employees are required to follow the protocols in place with regard to their own “actions and conduct”. In essence, OSHA requires both employers and employees work together to create and maintain a safe working environment.
Many employers have safety committees which allow employers and employees to work together to create safety procedures and allows employees to communicate possible hazards or procedures that are cumbersome or difficult to maintain. Employers can communicate directly with employees any changes to regulations that require new procedures or equipment to maintain workplace safety. Companies that create a partnership have more employee cooperation in maintaining a safe environment, which benefits both employer and employee.
OSHA regulations require that employers have access to employees’ medical and exposure records, personal protective equipment and hazard communication. While OSHA requires employers to provide personal protective equipment such as hard hats for construction workers, the employee must use them. The employer also has the right to relevant medical records regarding any workplace injury. Finally, the employer bears the responsibility for clearly communicating any hazardous materials that employees may be exposed to on the job. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) must be on site for every hazardous material an employee has the potential of coming into contact with. Employers must also train employees to be aware of the hazardous materials, how to avoid exposure to these hazards and how to obtain information from the MSDS should exposure occur.
What Emplotees Should Do
While OSHA has many requirements for employers to keep their workplace safe, there are practices in place for employees who find their employer has been lax in enforcing or maintaining the regulations. Employees have the right to file a complaint with OSHA regarding the health and safety conditions of their workplace while retaining a certain degree of anonymity. Workers are also permitted to be involved with any OSHA workplace inspection. Should an employer discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint, OSHA will investigate provided the employee files within thirty days of the event. However, employees must always observe current safety procedures to be protected under these rights.
Both employees and employers have a significant stake in maintaining workplace safety. A safe working environment keeps employees healthy and maintains productivity, which allows employers to continue to produce goods or services and pay wages. Employers and employees working cooperatively helps maintain trust and goodwill, which is good for everyone.
Sarah works for Substaion Safety running the online marketing for the group of companies.
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