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Employers have both ethical and legal responsibilities regarding workplace safety. In a practical sense, everyone is responsible for workplace safety, but in the U.S. employers clearly bear the lion's share of the legal responsibility. Federal law requires employers to provide a safe workplace; this includes meeting industry-specific standards as well as a good-faith examination of all workplace conditions, posting safety-related signs and keeping accurate records regarding work-related injuries and illnesses. Some states have enacted workplace safety laws that are even more stringent than federal standards.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed into law in 1970. The law mandated the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This federal agency is charged with setting safety and health standards at the workplace. OSHA is part of the Department of Labor, which means enforcement of current regulations and the promulgation of new standards and regulations are the responsibility of the Secretary of Labor.
Providing a Safe Workplace
OSHA regulations mandate that employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace. The legal definition is that employers must "provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSHA Act." This includes a careful examination of conditions throughout the workplace to make sure that they meet the relevant OSHA standards. It also specifically includes providing employees with safe tools and equipment and properly maintaining all equipment.
Safety Trainings and Postings
Per OSHA regulations, employers are responsible for providing all appropriate safety trainings. The types and frequencies of training to be provided vary based on the industry and the workplace. Employers are also responsible for providing safety warnings using color codes, posters, labels or signs to advise employees of potential hazards in the workplace. In addition, employers must post the OSHA poster regarding employee rights and responsibilities at a central location in the workplace.
Maintaining Safety Records
OSHA regulations also mandate that employers report work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths to OSHA and state and local authorities on a timely basis. Specifically, employers must maintain a log of work-related injuries and illnesses, and allow employees and authorities access to the log. Employers must also report any fatal accident or accident resulting in the hospitalization of three or more employees to OSHA within eight hours.
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.