What does the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) govern?

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires that an employer furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing, or likely to cause, death or serious harm to employees. OSHA requires certain record keeping and notice requirements on the employer and establishes standards and procedures.

Who is covered by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act?

OSHA generally covers any employer engaged in a business affecting interstate commerce that has at least one employee. However, OSHA does exempt certain employers from some requirements and penalties if they have 10 or fewer employees. This Act does not apply to residential owners who employ persons for ordinary domestic household things, such as cleaning, caring for children and cooking, etc. State and local governments are not covered.

What administrative body may impose remedies for a violation of the federal Occupational Safety and
Health Act?

The Occupational Safety Administration of the Department of Labor administers OSHA. Through the Secretary of Labor, the Administration has the power to investigate, inspect, issue citations and impose penalties. Offenders can be subject to civil and criminal penalties. OSHA inspections are to be conducted during working time, or at other reasonable times, and in a reasonable manner. Inspections are subject to the search and seizure safeguards of the Fourth Amendment.

What should I do if one of my employees is killed on the job?

When you are made aware of an occupational death, regardless of where it occurred, you must notify OSHA. The reporting “window” is eight (8) hours from the time you receive notice of the death.

OSHA’s Boise numbers are voice 208-321-2960, fax 208-321-2966 and the number for statewide use in Idaho is 1-800-482-1370. After regular business hours in Idaho (8a.m. to 5p.m.), you should call the national OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-6742. The average OSHA penalty for the failure to report within 8 hours is $5,000.00 and there are fines of up to $70,000.00 for an intentional failure to report.

After calling law enforcement personnel and OSHA you should notify your insurer. You should work with law enforcement on notification of the deceased’s next of kin.

Do I need to put up an OSHA poster in my workplace? Where can I get a copy?

Yes, all employers need to post the federal or a state OSHA poster to provide their employees with information on their safety and health rights. You may order a printed copy from OSHA Publications at 1-800-321-OSHA or download and print one from the OSHA website.

How many work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths occur each year in the U.S.?

In 1999, there were 5.7 million occupational injuries and illnesses among U.S. workers. Approximately 6.3 of every 100 workers experienced a job-related injury or illness and 6,023 workers lost their lives on the job.

What’s the penalty for violating an OSHA standard?

OSHA penalties range from $0 to $70,000, depending upon how likely the violation is to result in serious harm to workers. Other-than-serious violations may result in penalties of up to $7,000. Serious violations may also have penalties up to $7,000. Repeat and willful violations may have penalties as high as $70,000. Penalties may be discounted if an employer has a small number of employees, has demonstrated good faith, or has few or no previous violations.

What if OSHA inspects my workplace and I disagree with the findings?

Employers have the right to contest OSHA citations and/or penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Notices of contest must be filed within 15 working days following issuance of citations. It is usually wise to consult with an attorney experienced in OSHA proceedings if you want to contest citations or penalties.

Who must keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses?

About 1.3 million employers with 11 or more employees-20 percent of the establishments OSHA covers-must keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. Workplaces in low-hazard industries such as retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate are exempt from record keeping requirements. You may want to consult with an attorney experienced in OSHA issues to cover requirements applicable to your industry.

What is MSHA?

The Mine Safety and Health Administration began operating under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Labor in 1978 after an act of the same name was passed through Congress. The goal of this program is to prevent fatalities and reduce the number of job-related injuries in the mining industry.

“Under the new Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 242 miners died in mining accidents, according to the MSHA. “Last year, a record-low 53 fatalities were reported.”

This administration was created mostly to protect employees, but employers have protections, as well.

The website for MSHA information: http://www.msha.gov

Citation Disputes

File disputes within 30 days of receiving a citation. The employer has the right to dispute the citation by filing a notice with the secretary of labor. The employer must send a statement explaining their disagreement with the citation and the copy of the original citation. The employer also can dispute the length of time the company has to repair items listed on the citation.

Right to an appeal

The employer has the right to file an appeal if the company doesn’t agree with the ruling of an administrative law judge. The company must file a petition within 30 days, and their dispute must either state in their petition that the conclusion isn’t supported by enough evidence, that there was an error on the judge’s part, or that the decision is not in line with the law or the proper procedures weren’t follow by either the judge or the MHSA inspector. If the petition does not meet these requirements, it will be denied automatically.