OSHA Examines Worker Safety And Compliance
The conference, sponsored by Keye Productivity Center, brought together approximately 35 attendees from various industries and disciplines to learn more about OSHA compliance standards and inspection procedures.
Ken Zans of Ergonomic Solutions, Shawnee Mission, KS, presented four different seminars (which are described in detail on pages 1, 22, and 23).
Zans described himself as “the poster boy of the OSHA Act of 1970.” The act, which is officially known as the Williams-Stieger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, defines employers, employees, employer-employee relationships, and details who is covered (and not covered) by the act.
The act spells out the employer’s responsibilities to provide a safe workplace.
Before the act was established in 1970, about 90 million American workers had no comprehensive laws to protect them from workplace hazards. Twenty-five years later, records kept by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a marked improvement in workplace safety. According to Zans, the U.S. workforce is 40% larger than it was in 1969, yet half as many workers are killed or injured.
Zans noted that the goal of business owners who wish to become OSHA compliant should include the following four “pillars”: record keeping, written safety and health plans, training programs (including new employee orientation), and documentation.
“OSHA will ask you how much time you focus on new employee training and how much time you plan on to conduct ongoing training,” said Zans. “If you have all of these pillars in place, you should be able to demonstrate to OSHA that your safety and health programs are in place, too.”
THE GENERAL DUTY CLAUSEZans went to great length to explain a very important section of the act, entitled the “General Duty Clause.” In his conference literature, Zans writes, “Because not all hazards can be foreseen by OSHA, and many areas defy consensus standards, the act includes the General Duty Clause. Its purpose is to require all employers to look for and abate hazards, even when OSHA has not created specific standards to cover them.
“In other words, OSHA does not need to show a standard in order to cite and fine an employer.”
The General Duty Clause carries penalties just as if it was a standard, and, according to Zans, violations of the clause draw millions of dollars in penalties each year.
“If something in the workplace is a serious hazard, it is against the law, even when there is no rule against it in the code,” Zans said. He added that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and that all employers and employees should share a general duty responsibility, even though OSHA only cites and fines the employers, not employees.
Zans added that all businesses must have a copy of the OSHA standards in the workplace. “Being able to access the standards online is not a substitute. The book must be physically on hand.”
Keye Productivity Center sponsors several OSHA Conferences every year. For more information, call 800-255-4141 or visit www.keyeproductivity.com (website).
Publication date: 08/12/2002