As an "agent of the employer" the supervisor assumes the responsibilities of the employer to the degree he or she has been given authority. This first module will introduce you to some of the basic employer responsibilities to OSHA law, and the obligations the employer and employees have to each other. Fulfilling these obligations is a function of competent management and leadership: the theme throughout the entire course.
Although, we're discussing what legal obligations the employer has in this module, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that "doing safety" to primarily avoid OSHA violations and penalties is probably the least effective safety management approach. Employers who understand the long term financial and cultural benefits derived from world-class safety management and leadership will be more likely to develop a proactive safety and health system that not only meets OSHA requirements, but far exceeds them. You can find out more about developing effective safety systems in Course 700.
The supervisor is the person who can take immediate, direct action to make sure that his or her work area is safe and healthful for all employees. In his text, Occupational Safety and Health Management, Thomas Anton relates that the supervisor bears the greatest responsibility and accountability for implementing the safety and health program because it is he or she who works most directly with the employee.
It is important that the supervisor understands and applies successful management and leadership principles to make sure their employees enjoy an injury- and illness-free work environment. Management may be thought of as applying organizational skills, while leadership involves effective human relations skills.
As detailed in the Section 5 (The General Duty Clause) of the OSHA Act of 1970, the employer is assigned responsibility and held accountable to maintain a safe and healthful workplace.
To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the 'Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970'.
(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this act.
(b) Each employer shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.
As you can see, employers have clearly defined responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The following list is an expansion on those basic responsibilities that are stated throughout the OSHA standards.
Of course, these are not all of the employer responsibilities, but this summary does present those general responsibilities each employer has to both the law and their employees. The list above reflects the fact that the employer has control of work and workplace conditions. Tied to that control is accountability. On the other hand, what general responsibilities do employees have to their employer?
Although OSHA does not cite employees for violations of their responsibilities, each employee must comply with all occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued under the Act that are applicable. Employee compliance is not likely unless the employer holds its employees accountable. Think of it this way: the employer is held accountable to OSHA standards, while the employee is held accountable to the employer standards.
One effective strategy for communicating this "chain of command" for accountability is for the employer to use language stressing that employees comply with the "company's safety rules" rather than the OSHA rules. Instead of having an "OSHA Manual," construct an "XYZ, Inc. Safety Manual."
Following this strategy to communicate responsibilities is important for a couple of reasons:
According to OSHA law, employee's should do the following:
Workers have the right to complain to OSHA and seek an OSHA inspection. Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 authorizes OSHA to investigate employee complaints of employer discrimination against those who are involved in safety and health activities.
OSHA is also responsible for enforcing whistleblower protection under ten other laws. OSHA Area Office staff can explain the protections under these laws and the deadlines for filing complaints. Workers in the 23 states operating OSHA-approved State Plans may file complaints of employer discrimination with the state plan as well. State and local government workers in these states (and two others with public employee only state plans) may file complaints of employer discrimination with the state.
Some examples of discrimination are firing, demotion, transfer, layoff, losing opportunity for overtime or promotion, exclusion from normal overtime work, assignment to an undesirable shift, denial of benefits such as sick leave or vacation time, blacklisting with other employers, taking away company housing, damaging credit at banks or credit unions and reducing pay or hours.
Most discrimination complaints fall under the OSHA Act of 1970 that gives the employee only 30 days to report acts of discrimination. OSHA conducts an in-depth interview with each complainant to determine the need for an investigation. If evidence supports the worker's claim of discrimination, OSHA will ask the employer to restore the worker's job, earnings and benefits. If the employer objects, OSHA may take the employer to court to seek relief for the worker.
Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.
Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.