OSHA standards are:
OSHA writes standards (also called "rules") for four industrial groups: general industry, construction, maritime, and agriculture. Where there are no specific standards, employers must comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act.
OSHA issues standards for a wide variety of workplace hazards, including:
OSHA standards appear in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The OSHA standards are broken down into Parts:
Through the years, the same standards seem to be most frequently cited by OSHA. Their position on the list below varies from year to year, but they're all on the TOP 10 list each year. Visit OSHA's website on this topic. Just click on the image.
Notice the Fall Protection and Hazard Communication standards: these two standards are usually is at or near the top, so make sure you have an effective hazard communication program. Actually, it's smart safety management to give priority to each of the top 10 in your safety program. After all, the following statement is true:
"That which OSHA sees the most, cites the most."
Look at OSHA’s Top 10 most frequently cited violations for 2020 by clicking on the image to the right.
The OSH Act covers most private sector employers and their workers, in addition to some public sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. Those jurisdictions include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands.
OSHA covers most private sector employers and workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state plan.
State plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states instead of Federal OSHA. The OSH Act encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs and precludes state enforcement of OSHA standards unless the state has an approved program. OSHA approves and monitors all state plans and provides as much as fifty percent of the funding for each program. State-run safety and health programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program.
To find the contact information for the OSHA Federal or state plan office nearest you, call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or go to www.osha.gov.
The OSH Act authorizes OSHA compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) to conduct non-notice workplace inspections at reasonable times. See detailed requirements in the Field Operations Manual (click on image). OSHA conducts inspections without advance notice, except in rare circumstances (e.g. Imminent Danger) In fact, anyone who tells an employer about an OSHA inspection in advance can receive fines and a jail term.
OSHA cannot inspect all 7 million workplaces it covers each year so it focuses inspection resources on the most hazardous workplaces in the following order of priority:
Willful violation: A willful violation is cited when the employer intentionally and knowingly commits the violation. It is also cited when the employer commits a violation with plain indifference to the law. OSHA may propose penalties of up to $124,709 for each willful violation.
Repeated violation: This violation is cited by OSHA when it is the same as a similar or previous violation. OSHA may propose penalties of up to $124,709 for each repeated violation.
Serious violation: OSHA cites a serious violation where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
Other-than-serious violation: An other-than-serious violation is cited when the violation has a direct relationship to safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA may propose penalties of up to $12,471 for each serious, other than serious, and repeated violation.
Failure to abate: When the employer fails to abate a violation, a maximum of $12,471 may be proposed for per day unabated beyond the abatement date. Generally there is a 30-day maximum limit.
Falsifying information: An employer that provides false information to OSHA can receive a fine up to $12,471 or up to six months in jail, or both.
OSHA cites employers, not employees. It's important to know that the OSHA Act does not provide for the issuance of citations or the proposal of penalties against employees. Employers are responsible for employee compliance with the standards.
Penalty Adjustments: OSHA may adjust penalties downward depending upon the employer's size (maximum number of employees), good faith, and the history of previous violations. Adjustments may be applied as follows:
Preparation - Before conducting an inspection, OSHA compliance officers research the inspection history of a worksite using various data sources, review the operations and processes in use and the standards most likely to apply. They gather appropriate personal protective equipment and testing instruments to measure potential hazards.
Presentation of credentials - The on-site inspection begins with the presentation of the compliance officer's credentials, which include both a photograph and a serial number.
Opening Conference - The compliance officer will explain why OSHA selected the workplace for inspection and describe the scope of the inspection, walkaround procedures, employee representation and employee interviews. The employer then selects a representative to accompany the compliance officer during the inspection. An authorized representative of the employees, if any, also has the right to go along. In any case, the compliance officer will consult privately with a reasonable number of employees during the inspection.
The Walkaround - Following the opening conference, the compliance officer, employee representative and the employer representative will walk through the portions of the workplace covered by the inspection, inspecting for hazards that could lead to employee injury or illness. The compliance officer interview employees and will also review worksite injury and illness records and the posting of the official OSHA poster.
Closing Conference - After the walkaround, the compliance officer holds a closing conference with the employer and the employee representatives to discuss the findings. The compliance officer discusses possible courses of action an employer may take following an inspection, which could include an informal conference with OSHA or contesting citations and proposed penalties. The compliance officer also discusses consultation services and employee rights.
Results - When an inspector finds violations of OSHA standards or serious hazards, OSHA may issue citations and fines. Citations describe OSHA requirements allegedly violated, list any proposed penalties and give a deadline for correcting the alleged hazards.
Appeals - When OSHA issues a citation to an employer, it also offers the employer an opportunity for an informal conference to discuss citations, penalties, abatement dates or any other information pertinent to the inspection. Employers have 15 days after receipt of citations and proposed penalties to formally contest the alleged violations and/or penalties.
There are many resources available to you if you want to find out more information about a safety or health issue in your workplace. Some sources are:
If you cannot find out the safety and health information you need in your workplace, there are many resources available outside the workplace.
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