Kevin Ian Schmidt

OSHA Employer Responsibilities

Your employer has many responsibilities or obligations detailed within the OSH Act and other standards. OSHA’s job is to protect employees, not necessarily employers. If there is a serious accident in the workplace, OSHA will investigate to determine if the employer did not adequately meet their obligations under the law. By doing so, OSHA’s ultimate goal is to protect you, the employee.

With this in mind, your employer must meet the following obligations to employees:

  • Provide a workplace free from recognized hazards and comply with OSHA standards.
  • Provide training required by OSHA standards.
  • Keep records of injuries and illnesses.
    • Set up a reporting system.
    • Provide copies of logs, upon request.
    • Post the annual summary.
    • Report within 8 hours any accident resulting in a fatality.
    • Report any work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours.
  • Provide medical exams when required by OSHA standards and provide workers access to their exposure and medical records.
  • Not discriminate against workers who exercise their rights under the Act (Section 11(c)).
  • Post OSHA citations and hazard correction notices.
  • Provide and pay for most PPE.

Employer OSHA General Responsibilities

Your employer must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards and comply with OSHA standards. Establishing a safe and healthful workplace requires every employer to make safety and health a core value. In general, OSHA requires employers to:

  • Maintain conditions and adopt practices reasonably necessary to protect you on the job. The first and best strategy is to control the hazard at its source. Engineering controls do this, unlike other controls that generally focus on the worker who is exposed to the hazard. The basic concept behind engineering controls is that, to the extent feasible, the work environment and the job itself should be designed to eliminate hazards or reduce exposure to hazards.
  • Be familiar with the standards that apply to their workplaces, and comply with these standards.
  • Ensure that you are provided with, and use, personal protective equipment (PPE), when needed. PPE is needed when exposure to hazards cannot be engineered completely out of normal operations or maintenance work, and when safe work practices and other forms of administrative controls cannot provide sufficient additional protection. PPE may also be appropriate for controlling hazards while engineering and work practice controls are being installed, and
  • Comply with the OSHA’s General Duty Clause where no specific standards apply. The general duty clause, or Section 5(a)(1) of the Act requires each employer to “furnish a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”
Check Out: How to Conduct a Job Hazard Analysis to identify PPE needs

Employers Must Provide PPE

OSHA requires that employers protect you from workplace hazards that can cause injury or illness. When engineering, work practice and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to you and ensure its use.

  • With few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment used to comply with OSHA standards.
  • Employers cannot require workers to provide their own PPE
  • The worker’s use of PPE they already own must be completely voluntary.
  • Even when a worker provides his or her own PPE, the employer must ensure that the equipment is adequate to protect the worker from hazards at the workplace.

Employers are not required to pay for some PPE in certain circumstances:

  • Non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or boots) and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the job site. (OSHA based this decision on the fact that this type of equipment is very personal, is often used outside the workplace, and that it is taken by workers from jobsite to jobsite and employer to employer.)
  • Everyday clothing, such as long-sleeve shirts, long pants, street shoes, and normal work boots.
  • Ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • Items such as hair nets and gloves worn by food workers for consumer safety.
  • Lifting belts because their value in protecting the back is questionable.
  • When the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE and it must be replaced.

Employers Must Provide Training

We already discussed your right to receive training from your employer on a variety of health and safety hazards and standards, such as chemical right to know, fall protection, confined spaces and personal protective equipment.

Many OSHA standards specifically require the employer to train workers in the safety and health aspects of their jobs. Other OSHA standards make it the employer’s responsibility to limit certain job assignments to those who are authorized, certified, competent, or qualified – meaning that they have had special previous training, in or out of the workplace as follows:

  • Authorized person – means a person approved or assigned by the employer to perform a specific type of duty or duties or to be at a specific location or locations at the jobsite.
  • Certified Person – is one who has passed stringent written and practical exams related to the work that he will perform. OSHA requires the organization providing the examinations be accredited.
  • Competent person – means one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.
  • Qualified person – means one who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated his ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.

OSHA construction standards include a general training requirement, which states: “The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.” Additional general training requirements for construction include training for workers:

  • required to handle or use poisons, caustics, and other harmful substances;
  • who may be exposed to job sites where harmful plants or animals are present;
  • required to handle or use flammable liquids, gases, or toxic materials; or
  • required to enter into confined or enclosed spaces.
Check out: How to Put Together a Workplace Safety Training Workshop

Employers Must Keep Records of Injuries and Illnesses

Recordkeeping is an important part of an employer’s responsibilities. Keeping records allows OSHA to collect survey material, helps OSHA identify high-hazard industries, and informs you, the worker, about the injuries and illnesses in your workplace. About 1.5 million employers with more than 10 employees must keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. Workplaces in certain low-hazard industries such as retail, education, finance, insurance, and real estate may be partially exempt from routine recordkeeping requirements.

For more information on updated exemptions see this OSHA Fact Sheet.

To meet OSHA reporting requirements, employers must do the following

  • Set up a reporting system.
  • Provide copies of logs, upon request.
  • Post the annual summary.
  • Report within 8 hours any accident resulting in a fatality.
  • Report all work-related hospitalizations, amputations, and loss of an eye within 24 hours.
Make sure your company representatives are well trained on reporting, training available here

I offer an OSHA recordability flowchart, which will help you identify which injuries to report.

Employers Must Post OSHA Citations and Hazard Correction Notices

An OSHA citation informs the employer and workers of the standards violated, the length of time set for correction, and proposed penalties resulting from an OSHA inspection.

Your employer must post a copy of each citation at or near places where the violations occurred for 3 days or until the violation is fixed (whichever is longer).

Employers also have to inform workers of what they have done to fix the violation, allow workers to examine and copy abatement documents sent to OSHA, and tag cited movable equipment to warn workers of the hazard.

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