Introduction to OSHA standards for construction
OSHA is an abbreviation for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This is U.S Agency from the larger Department of Labor whose responsibility is to ensure workers have safe and healthy working environment. OSHA was created by the Congress under the guidelines of Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970. The subsequent passing of the law led to the creation of OSHA with an express mandate that all workers were assured of safety and health in their working conditions. The commencement of OSHA in 1970 was heralded by persistent inexistence of national laws on health hazards and safety. Before the creation of OSHA, various events had taken place prompting the need for the existence of such an authority. To start with, the 1911 fire on Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York led to the death of 146 workers out of the 500 employees in the company. This disaster is regarded as the deadliest work disaster. The death of the workers was mainly due to the fact that the doors were locked leaving no escape route. Similarly, OSHA standards were prompted by the events of WWI whereby production had brought about major crises in workplaces. Additionally, the 1930s saw an increase in legislations pertaining to work safety. President Roosevelt new deals touched on work safety. However, things went out hand by the 1950s with a rising level of work-related hazards. Apparently, the 1960s saw an increased public outcry for the creation of safety and health standards based on the numerous deaths and injuries suffered by workers at work. The enactment of OSHA standards has therefore brought a reprieve to workers due to the stringent emphasis on safety and health standards.
The origin of OSHA standards
OSHA standards initially originated from three major sources namely: proprietary standards, federal laws and consensus standards. The standard-developing organizations often develop the consensus standards for the whole industry. Therefore, there is a need for consensus to be arrived at by the parties involved in the whole industry (Goetsch 15). OSHA has primarily integrated standards observed by American primary standards groups namely National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The standards observed by the two groups are part of the standards observed by OSHA. For instance, ANSI’s standard on Powered Industry Trucks has been incorporated into OSHA. This standard applies to the safety requirements pertaining to elements of design, maintenance and operation of powered trucks used in industrial contexts. There is also a consensus standard relating to Flammable and Combustible Liquids. This standard has been applied in NFPA standards. Similarly, Proprietary standards are often made by experts in various professional bodies operating various industries, associations and societies (United States Department of Labor 15). For example, the ‘Compressed Gas Association, Pamphlet P-1, Safe Handling of Compressed Gases’ is an important proprietary standard applied in OSHA.
On the issue of federal law pertaining to standards and requirements, various federal laws have been en forced in an attempt to develop standards applicable in the whole industry of all industries. Therefore, OSHA standards have been created with an objective of ensuring that occupational safety and health administration ensures that safety and health legislations are observed by all participants. The operations of OSHA are mainly on the basis of the Acts derived from the three distinct sources. Indeed, it is not uncommon for specified federal legislations to be applied in the determination of the appropriate OSHA standards. Several pre-existing federal legislations have been used in the past to develop OSHA standards. Some of these federal legislations include Federal Supply Contracts Act, Work Hours and Safety Standards Act, National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act and Federal Service Contracts Act.
Many people initially thought that the possible solution to the problems associated with worker safety would be creation of federal laws on the issue (Reese & Eidson 40). On December 29th 1970, the then President, Nixon appended his signature on the OSH Act through which OSHA was created. OSHA became formal on April 28th 1971. From then onwards, it was mandatory legally that every employer in the United States undertook the standards for safeguarding the safety and health of workers. The enactment of the OSH Act led to the creation of regulations uniform to all workers in the United States. The Act is widely known as Public Law 91-596 and covers employers in the private sector alongside their employees throughout the 50 states forming the United States, jurisdictions and territories controlled by the federal government. The OSH Act provisions applied to employers and employees in numerous sectors such as construct ion, agriculture, long-shoring, disaster relief, medicine, law, charity, manufacturing and many others. Additionally, the standards apply religious groups in cases where they have employed workers to undertake roles such as gardening and maintenance. Nevertheless, there are some groups that are not covered by OSHA requirements (United States Department of Labor 2). They include self employed individuals, immediate members of a family involved in farming and not employing workers from outside, certain truckers, atomic energy workers, and mine workers covered by other agencies of the federal government and also public employees in local and state governments as some states have private arrangements for covering their workers.
The mission of OSHA
With a strong basis on the background of OSHA, it is somewhat clear to deduct the mission guiding the operations of the authority. It is a requirement that the federal and state government work together harmoniously to achieve successful implementation of the OSHA requirements across the board (Stallcup 45). It is the priority of OSHA to protect the safety and health of over 100 million American workers and over 10 million employers. In conjunction with all the stakeholders and particularly the employers and employees, OSHA has developed various measures in an attempt to carry out its mission. For instance, OSHA has developed job safety and health standards to be observed in all work stations. It has also maintained a recordkeeping and reporting system in order to track injuries related to job. Furthermore, OSHA has been providing required training to employers and employees on how to embrace safety and health measures in their occupations.
OSHA has also been highly committed towards the assisting states in pursuit of worker safety and health. This has been facilitated by safety and health programs developed by OSHA made for implementation by specific states (Goetsch 25). OSHA is also involved in the approval of state plans in terms of job safety and health requirements for the workers in private sector, as well as local and state workers. The plans mad by OSHA on behalf of states often address the question of accident response as well as complaints launched by employees and also unannounced workplace inspections.
Occupational safety and health training are important undertakings of OSHA. Indeed, OSHA has massively transformed the lives of American workers. However, it has not been possible to completely eliminate all unsafe conditions and hazards in workplaces all over America. Therefore, OSHA undertakes continuous training to uphold an almost zero level of hazards throughout workplaces in America. Statistics indicate that annual costs incurred in treatment of injuries and illnesses obtained while working range from $145 billion to $290 billion. These are incurred on both direct and indict costs. Astonishingly, an average of 15 people die daily due to injuries obtained during work time and an annual figure of 5,600 American citizens succumb to work related injuries. Furthermore, over 4 million minor injuries are recorded annually.
Penalties, citations, rights, responsibilities and inspection
It is a requirement from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 as developed by Williams-Steiger for employers under the Act to provide their employees with work places free from preventable hazards capable of causing death or serious harm. From the Act, it is also a crucial requirement for all employers to uphold the occupational safety and health standards enshrined in the Act (United States Department of Labor 5). Similarly, employees are required to comply with the rules, standards, conduct and actions set by the Act. It is a mandate of the department of labor to undertake regular inspections and issue penalties and fines accordingly for any violation (Reese & Eidson 30). From the Act, numerous provisions on the adjudication pertaining to violations, required periods for violation abatement alongside the penalties set by the commission for OSHA standards are clearly spelt out. Part 1903 of the Act particularly sets out the rules on general provisions derived from the Act. The Act allows for the modification of the policies set in Part 1903 in circumstances where general enforcement policies are set rather than procedural rules.
Officers from the department of labor are charged with the mandate to undertake inspection to ascertain compliance with the Safety and health standards. Such officers are mandated by the Act to enter into any factory, establishment, plant, construction site or any other work place to inspect whether there is compliance with the requirements for safety and health standards (Goetsch 40). Such officers should not be delayed as long as they appear during a reasonable time. It is also a requirement that the officers demonstrate reasonableness in all aspects of their inspection such as limits, mannerisms, and time. Therefore, the Act permits for impromptu inspection by the labor safety and health standards officers so long as it is undertaken on reasonable grounds. During the working hours, it is a major requirement for employers and employees to uphold a high level of adherence to the safety and health standards as deviation may attract huge penalties.
Under OSHA, one has numerous rights either as an employee. In general various rights that apply to both employees include right to have a safe and healthy workplace at all times, right to be informed about chemicals that are hazardous, an employee also has a right to be fully informed about illnesses and injuries in the workplace. Additionally, an employee has a right to launch complaints requesting the employer to correct a hazard situation. It is also the right of an employee to obtain adequate training on safety and health measures at workplace (Reese & Eidson 10). A worker has a right to access records related to exposure to hazards and associated medical records. It is also the right of a worker to file an official complaint with OSHA in case of certain malpractices by employers. Similarly, a worker has a right to be involved in the inspection process as it is being undertaken by officials from the labor department. It is also the right of a worker to be free from any form of retaliation of punishment by the employee for filing a safety and health complaint. Finally, workers have a right to undertake their responsibilities as required in their job descriptions.
There are certain responsibilities for employers to fulfill as required by OSHA. First, they should provide workplaces free from known hazards and observe OSHA standards, they should provide adequate training to their employees on hazards, they are required to record illnesses and injuries from workplace hazards, they must furnish OSHA with medical records when needed, should not discriminate against workers exercising their rights to safety, they are required to post abatement verifications and citations notices, and finally they are required to pay and provide for PPE.
OSHA regulations have turned around the lives of American workers in the sustenance of safety and health in workplaces. OSHA requirements have led to the serious consideration of occupational safety and health standards for workers in numerous sectors of the labor force both private and public in the American economy. It has been such a great relief for American workers whose safety needs have been adequately catered for. The regulatory requirements on safety and health for all American workers have led to minimized hazards and injuries in workplaces. Nevertheless, OSHA continues to undertake numerous measures aimed at completely wiping out hazards occurring in workplaces irrespective of their minute nature.
Goetsch, David. Construction Safety and OSHA Standards. Prentice Hall PTR, 2009. Print.
Reese, Charles & Eidson, James. Handbook of OSHA Construction Safety and Health, 2nd ED. Taylor & Francis, 2006. Print.
Stallcup, James. OSHA: Stallcup’s Construction Regulations Simplified. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2003. Print.
United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Introduction to OSHA. OSHA Directorate of Training and Education, April 2011.
United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration: OSHA Law & Regulations. United States Department of Labor, 2013.
Introduction to OSHA standards for construction