OSHA: Your Questions Answered
OSHA: Your Questions Answered

OSHA: Your Questions Answered

On December 29, 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law, calling it “probably one of the most important pieces of legislation” ever passed by Congress. In a nutshell, the Act says workplaces must be “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

These hazards were far from negligible in the United States in the early '70s. At the time, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job every year. The Act created an administrative agency under the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA was tasked with setting and enforcing protective workplace safety and health standards, as well as providing information, training, outreach, and assistance to employers and workers. So, what does OSHA mean today to employers and employees?

Whom Does OSHA Regulate?

OSHA has jurisdiction over most employers. The agency covers private sector employers and employees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions. Some states have an OSHA-approved state program, which must be at least as stringent as the federal OSHA program, handling coverage for that state.

What Does OSHA Do?

OSHA sets standards or rules employers must follow to protect their workers from hazards. These standards include requirements to provide fall protection, prevent exposure to some infectious diseases, ensure the safety of workers who enter confined spaces, prevent exposure to harmful substances, and install guards on machines.

OSHA enforces these rules by conducting inspections. When it finds violations, it may issue citations and fines and require prompt remediation. The maximum penalty OSHA can assess is $7,000 for each serious violation and $70,000 for a repeated or willful violation. OSHA gave its first citation to a chemical company for exposing workers to mercury. Since then, the agency has noted 9 million violations and issued 36 health standards. It currently regulates 470 substances. While there were still 4,600 workplace fatalities in 2013, OSHA has proven effective; the daily fatal work injuries rate has dropped from 38 to 12 since the agency began and work-related injuries and illnesses have decreased by 40%.

What Does OSHA Mean for Employers?

Under the Act, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers must follow relevant OSHA safety and health standards, find and correct safety and health hazards, inform employees about workplace hazards, provide personal protective equipment where required, post OSHA materials, notify OSHA of fatalities or serious work-related injuries, keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illness, and refrain from retaliating against workers for exercising their rights under the Act, such as calling the agency about dangers in the workplace.

How Does OSHA Help Employers?

Fundamentally, OSHA helps employers by providing them with guidance and information that will reduce the risk of injury in the workplace; this is valuable both financially and as a way to keep employees--an organization’s most valuable asset--healthy and safe. Employers who would like to be proactive, or who feel they may be in need of assistance with OSHA requirements, can request a free on-site consultation. OSHA provides this service for small businesses with no penalties or citations attached. OSHA also provides services through compliance assistance specialists, cooperative programs, and training and education materials. Considering workplace injuries and illnesses cost employers $170 billion a year (and that doesn’t even factor in the $60 billion a year in lost productivity due to occupational injuries), and that employees are more engaged where there are fewer incidents, the safety-engagement correlation has real bottom-line meaning.

This content was adapted from the HR Support Center HR Advisor newsletter. Contact us to learn more about how you can manage more confidently with HR Support Center.

Related resources:
How Safety Ties to Employee Satisfaction—and the Bottom Line
3 Human Resource Needs for Manufacturers

OSHA 300A Form Regulation Changes

More to Discover

2019 HR & Compliance Web Summit: Executive Summary

2019 HR & Compliance Web Summit: Executive Summary

With 20,000+ registrations, this was Paycor’s biggest and best web summit yet!Industry experts like Jennifer McClure offered actionable insights and advice on all things HR, from self-care for the HR pro to in-the-news compliance issues. If you missed the live webinars you can watch them on our on-demand webinar page.In the meantime, here’s a quick overview of each session. 5 Steps to Become a Strategic HR Leader | Speaker: Lori Kleiman In today’s business environment only 20% of HR professionals interact with the executive suite. Lori Kleiman says it’s time to stop waiting for your gold embroidered invitation and finally take your seat on the leadership team. Ready to become a strategic HR leader? Follow this 5 step plan: Engage...

Payroll Risks and Controls: Everything You Need to Know

Payroll Risks and Controls: Everything You Need to Know

Believe it or not, running payroll is a risky business The IRS estimates that 40% of small to medium-size businesses end up paying a payroll penalty each year. Whether you’re a large organization or a small one, there’s always a risk of payroll errors leading to fines, penalties and sometimes litigation. Protect yourself from fraud and human error Businesses that run payroll on their own, especially small businesses, are at a much higher risk of being disrupted by fraudulent activity and human error. From ghost employees to hour padding to buddy punching, when a company lacks the appropriate internal controls to manage its payroll, it can run into big trouble. Here are 6 common payroll risks and controls you can implement to mitigate...

401(k) Match Limits 2019: What Payroll Administrators  Need to Know

401(k) Match Limits 2019: What Payroll Administrators Need to Know

It’s a relatively small change, but it’s a change for payroll administrators to take notice of. As of November 2018, your employees’ contribution limits for their 401(k) increased to $19,000 from $18,500. The increase raises the total annual contribution amount (employee plus employer contribution) to $56,000 or 100% of the employee’s salary if they make less than that. Most companies typically offer 3-6% in matching funds, but there is no limit to the amount an employer can contribute as long as the annual cap isn’t reached. 2018 & 2019 401(k) Match Limits Defined Contribution Plan Limits 2019 2018 Difference Maximum employee contribution $19,000 $18,500 +$500 Catch-up contribution for employees aged 50 or older $6,000 $6,000 No...

Webinar: October Web Summit - Compliance from Hire to Retire

Webinar: October Web Summit - Compliance from Hire to Retire

From managing recruiting compliance data to accurately tracking employee hours, you need a partner who can offer the right technology plus expertise to help mitigate risk. Register for this webinar to see how Paycor can help prepare you for all of the compliance challenges in managing the employee lifecycle!We will be reviewing these 4 major areas of compliance: Recruiting Hiring Payroll People Management Speaker: Brett BeilfussBrett has been the Senior Bank Marketing Program Manager for Paycor for the past three years. He works exclusively with Paycor’s Bank and CPA referral partners, whose aim is to help their clients mitigate risk.