Build a safety culture from the ground up through mobile-ready safety inspections and real-time incident reporting
Published 31 Jan 2023
OSHA standards are sets of guidelines and requirements enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to minimize health and safety risks in US-based workplaces. They regulate companies to maintain safe and healthy working conditions and to provide suitable training and assistance to their employees before doing their jobs. OSHA standards are also known as OSHA regulations or OSHA requirements because they are stipulated in Part 1910 Title 29 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
OSHA is considered the US equivalent of Australia’s Safe Work Australia. In the 1960s, The United States experienced a turbulent increase in work-related injuries and illnesses; resulting in 14,000 workers dying on the job each year. US Senator Harrison A. Williams Jr. and House Representative William A. Steiger pushed for prompt action to curb the alarming statistics.
“The knowledge that the industrial accident situation is deteriorating, rather than improving, underscores the need for action now.” – US Senator Harrison A. Williams Jr.
On December 29, 1970, then US President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 which spawned three different agencies, each focused on a different aspect of health and safety in the workplace:
Officially established on April 28, 1971, OSHA became the first nationwide regulating body in the United States tasked with setting and enforcing workplace safety standards for the benefit of private-sector and government workers.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also known as NIOSH, is tasked with doing research to advance occupational safety and health. NIOSH works in tandem with OSHA to provide new information that will positively influence and improve OSHA standards.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission or OSHRC is the agency in charge of mediating cases wherein an employer is in conflict with OSHA rulings and facing employee complaints.
A month after OSHA became official, they released their first standards for safety and health in the workplace, including guidelines on how to protect workers from excessive noise, cotton dust, and asbestos, as well as acceptable exposure limits for more than 400 toxic substances.
After initially focusing on common occupational health and safety hazards, OSHA started working on a more holistic approach to workplace safety and health beginning in the 1980s by starting education, training, and consultation programs outside of standard enforcement. Additionally, OSHA added the following to their growing list of initiatives during this period:
OSHA continued to find ways to fulfill its mission to assure worker safety through a variety of programs and initiatives during the 1990s. During this time, OSHA:
Firmly established as one of the leading authorities in workplace safety even outside of the United States, OSHA added key improvements to advance their efforts; most notably through strengthening their online presence, among other things:
An OSHA safety standard is a list of material and equipment requirements along with guidelines and instructions for employers to minimize employee risk in the performance of work. The adherence to OSHA standards protects workers from fatal hazards and health risks. It is organized into four major industries.
This section outlines OSHA’s occupational safety and health requirements covering businesses that do not fall strictly under the agriculture, construction, and maritime industries:
General safety checklists can help safety officers when performing site walkthroughs to spot potential risks associated with the general industry. To help improve the safety of the workplace we have listed below the OSHA standard checklist for the general industry.
OSHA Standards PDF Report Sample | View Template
This section talks about some of the most prominent employer responsibilities regarding the safety and health of employees in the construction industry as mandated by OSHA’s standards:
Construction Checklists can help contractors optimize the promotion and improvement of workplace safety for everyone involved in the construction site. Browse these OSHA standard checklists for the construction industry.
This section talks about some of the most prominent employer responsibilities regarding the safety and health of employees in the maritime industry as mandated by OSHA’s standards:
Maritime checklists help employers to keep their employees safe. The following OSHA standard checklists for the maritime industry can help employers to ensure a healthy environment for their employees.
This section talks about some of the most prominent employer responsibilities regarding the safety and health of employees in the agriculture industry as mandated by OSHA’s standards:
Agriculture inspections are designed to prepare farms and food processing plants to align current procedures to best practices and standards. Browse these OSHA standard checklists for the agricultural industry to ensure business compliance with safety protocols to prevent workplace hazards.
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OSHA sets and enforces standards to assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women. Moving beyond mere regulatory compliance, adherence to OSHA standards protects workers from deadly safety hazards and health risks at work. Here are 5 benefits of complying with OSHA requirements:
Senior management should create a health and safety policy with clear objectives, indicating the basic health and safety philosophy of the organization. State the general responsibilities of all employees such as not sacrificing personal safety for expediency. As soon as the incumbent CEO signs the health and safety policy, it should be communicated to each employee and carried out with no exceptions. Environmental, health, and safety managers should update these guidelines when applicable OSHA standards change and integrate it with lessons learned from past incidents, new insights from recent training sessions, and more efficient SOPs.
OSHA standards can be easily met when organizations empower frontline workers to mitigate health and safety risks at the onset. Before commencing work, site supervisors should regularly conduct an OSHA toolbox talk for workers to be aware or reminded of job hazards, best practices, and preventive measures.
EHS managers should implement a real-time incident reporting through mobile-ready OSHA 300 forms to identify leading indicators to safe performance. Establishing an adaptive work environment allows employees to take greater ownership of occupational health and safety for themselves and their co-workers.
Proper recordkeeping and documentation of health and safety programs is critical in substantiating compliance with OSHA standards. Paper-based hazard assessments, safety inspections, and incident reports can be time-consuming and burdensome to use and manage. To easily comply with OSHA standards, EHS managers and frontline workers should take advantage of the world’s most powerful safety inspection software, SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor).
With SafetyCulture, you can capture photo evidence, assign corrective actions, automatically generate and share reports, store and secure data in the cloud, and track performance with real-time analytics. Providing a centralized health and safety management system builds a safety culture from the ground up and gives visibility on daily business operations.
EHS managers should recognize safe and on-time performance to encourage safe behavior in the workplace. Facilitate peer-to-peer observations, provide informal feedback, and engage in follow-up discussions to further support safe behavior among employees. Consistent hazard prevention, prompt incident reporting, proactive responses to safety issues, and appropriate solutions to recurrent problems should also be rewarded.
Maintaining compliance with OSHA standards entails the commitment of the organization, its management, and all employees to prioritize health and safety. Visit OSHA’s FAQs to keep up with releases/revisions of OSHA standards such as the final rule to improve tracking workplace injuries and illnesses, new training requirements, and compliance audit schedules.
Cited primarily as the national authority in workplace safety, OSHA has multiple functions that lead to the achievement of its mission: a safe working environment for all workers. Essentially, OSHA operates with two main functions—as a safety enforcer and as a safety consultant:
OSHA’s most prominent function is to ensure that employers and employees all over the United States comply with their safety standards. Failure to comply with OSHA’s standards can lead to hefty fines, legal consequences, and a tarnished reputation.
OSHA’s compliance safety and health officers visit workplaces and perform on-site inspections to identify and point out potential safety hazards to employers and employees. After the walkthrough, OSHA inspectors advise employers about the possible actions they can take to mitigate identified risks, including the time frame granted to eliminate identified hazards.
OSHA provides free safety consultations to employers upon request. Through this function, an OSHA consultant will perform a walkthrough inspection with the employer in order to identify workplace hazards, provide helpful suggestions on how to eliminate safety issues, and assist employers in developing and maintaining an effective safety and health program. Additionally, OSHA consultants can also provide safety training for both the employer and employees on-site or off-site subject to approval.
OSHA covers all private-sector workers in all 50 states. State and local government workers only have OSHA coverage if they work in states that have OSHA-approved programs. Self-employed workers and workers protected by other federal agencies such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration are not covered by OSHA.
In relation to OSHA compliance, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment to all of their employees. Generally, the responsibility of employers can be categorized into the following 7 primary duties:
Employers are responsible for providing workers with the knowledge and skills required to perform all work-related tasks while ensuring their safety. While educating and training all workers to follow OSHA’s standards, employers must provide safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
Effective safety and health programs are critical tools that not only educate workers but also spread awareness and understanding on how to identify, report, and control workplace hazards. In providing effective safety education and training, specific action items must be observed:
OSHA standards training is a crucial part of safety and health programs because it is designed to aid workers in protecting themselves from injuries and illnesses. Knowing the program’s structure, plans, and procedures, ensures that everyone can develop, implement, and improve the program. Basic training requirements in OSHA standards include emergency action plan and fire prevention plan awareness, among others.
Employers and managers are responsible for workers’ safety. Without the proper training and knowledge, higher-ups may unwittingly put workers at risk. Providing training and being clear about their role in these safety programs ensure that they are well prepared in the performance of their duties
As the program evolves, additional formal training may be required to ensure that all employees are able to incorporate updated safety practices in their daily performance of work.
To effectively eliminate hazards or identify them before they get worse, workers must be provided training on hazard recognition and control.
A comprehensive safety training program can only do so much if the workplace remains chock-full of hazards. For this reason, one of the most important duties of the employer is to eliminate preventable workplace hazards.
Employers are required to inform workers of their rights and responsibilities by posting the OSHA poster. Employers must also use color codes, labels, or signages to give appropriate warnings to workers who may be exposed to hazards upon entering a specific work area.
Below are OSHA’s designated color recommendations when informing workers of potential hazards:
OSHA has also established safety codes that should be used when physical hazards are present in the facility:
OSHA borrows from the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) color-coding scheme to provide workers instructions aimed at maximizing safety. Aside from the warning signs, the following colors are also recommended for workplace use:
Aside from providing adequate safety training and a safe work environment, employers must also comply with OSHA’s standards to minimize the risk of worker injuries and fatalities.
Employers have a responsibility to report any work-related death or accident, as well as any fatalities leading to work-related hospitalizations, within 8 hours. They also need to keep an updated record of work-related injuries and illnesses if they have 10 or more employees. Minor injuries that can be remedied with first aid do not need to be recorded.
Employees have the right to access the log of work-related injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300), including the summary of employee medical records and exposure records to individual workers. For OSHA inspection purposes, employers need to examine workplace conditions regularly and ensure compliance with OSHA standards. The name of an authorized employee representative must be submitted to accompany OSHA’s compliance officer during inspections.
For non-compliance or partial compliance after an inspection, employers are required to post OSHA citations, until the violation has been corrected, near the area where the violation has been identified. Once cited violations have been corrected (within OSHA’s set deadline) an abatement verification documentation must be submitted.
An abatement is the correction of a violation related to safety that led to an OSHA citation. To resolve the violations, employers must certify or prove that the violation identified by the compliance officer has been successfully corrected. Employers must inform affected employees of the correction that has taken place, and must allow workers to examine and adapt the changes stated in the documents sent to OSHA. Lastly, employers should use tags for any movable equipment or machinery for work use and material handling to alert employees of the hazard (if applicable).
Once submitted, OSHA will then indicate any penalties and will require abatement plans and progress reports to ensure effective correction of cited violation/s.
Employers are also prohibited to discriminate against workers who have filed complaints against employers. OSHA has a Whistleblower Protection Act designed to ensure that employees are not treated unfairly by employers they filed complaints against. Below are possible employer actions from which employees are protected under OSHA’s whistleblower protection act:
After a complaint against an employer has been made by an employee, OSHA conducts an interview with the employee or complainant to determine the gravity and need for a formal investigation. If the evidence proves the claims of the complainant, OSHA can compel the employer to rehire the employee and provide appropriate support.
The creation of OSHA gave workers a government-mandated right to a safe environment where all hazards are removed or controlled. Practicing safety in the workplace, however, is a joint effort. Employees must know their responsibilities and work alongside their employers to implement a culture of safety for the benefit of both parties.
For workplace hazards, violations of OSHA standards, or violations of the OSH Act, workers have the right to request an OSHA inspection anonymously. Workers also have the right to contact OSHA regarding the results of the requested inspection, along with other safety details related to their workplace, including safety measures and records of work-related accidents and illnesses.
Employees can also ask NIOSH to examine and disclose information regarding the substances used and present in the workplace. If workers are exposed to toxic substances, they have the right to access chemical records and observe the monitoring and measuring of these substances. Under certain situations where there is immediate risk or danger, employees have the right to refuse to go to work.
Employees have the right to be notified of any violations of standards in the workplace (abatement-related concerns), as well as any changes made in the abatement period. Workers can also dispute any citations made by OSHA to the employer.
If employees experience adverse consequences from employers for engaging in OSHA-protected activities, employees are entitled to file a complaint with OSHA.
Though much of the safety burden may fall on the employer, employees are not exempt from responsibilities under the OSHA initiative and are expected to:
While OSHA sets standards, provides guidelines, and offers assistance to businesses looking to improve their safety records, the key to creating a safe workplace ultimately depends on employers and employees working together and understanding that safety always comes first.
Demonstrate compliance with OSHA standards using the award-winning health, safety, and risk management software, SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor). With iAuditor, safety managers can stay on top of all their team members while keeping an eye out across the business. To help you and your team get started, download and use the following OSHA checklists for free:
Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her 5-year experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.
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