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New OSHA Requirements For A Safe Workplace

New OSHA Requirements For A Safe Workplace

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (“Act”) requires employers to provide employees with a workplace that is safe from recognized hazards.  The type of industry determines what an employer must do to comply with the Act.  Construction industry employers should be very familiar with the Act, OSHA and the requirements imposed upon them.  And, it is important to note that the duty to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards applies to employers generally, not just construction industry employers.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has numerous training resources available to all employers, but especially construction industry employers.  OSHA’s website for the construction industry is www.osha.gov/doc/training.html.

One of OSHA’s priority goals is educational outreach that includes educating workers about their rights.  Another priority goal of OSHA’s is to improve safety in the workplace by reducing workplace accidents and saving lives through education and enforcement.

Among other programs and goals, OSHA announced effective June 11, 2010 its Outreach Training Program class will include a new component which focuses on workers’ rights and advises them of their right to:

  • Safe and healthful workplaces
  • Know about the presence and effects of hazardous chemicals
  • Review information about injuries and illnesses in their workplaces
  • Receive training
  • Request/file for an OSHA inspection and participate in the inspection
  • Be free from retaliation for exercising their safety and health rights[1]

OSHA has also announced the end of its Enhanced Enforcement Program and its replacement program, i.e. the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”).  The SVEP will target construction, general and marine industry employers who have demonstrated indifference to their occupational safety and health obligations through “willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations in (1) a fatality or catastrophe situation; (2) in industry operations or processes that expose employees to the most severe occupational hazards…” (citations omitted).

The SVEP applies nationwide and the directive requires each state to adopt a similar program.

As awareness increases as a result of educational outreach programs, it is not uncommon to see an increase in employee complaints or inquiries about the Act, employer compliance obligations, and employee rights.  Employers are well advised to review their safety programs and ensure that their programs are up to date and that employees are aware of them and have completed required training programs.  If OSHA knocks on your door, will you be ready?

Tidbit:  Effective June 16, 2010, the civil penalties associated with violation of the federal child labor regulations will increase.  The penalties will now range between $6,000 and $11,000 per violation.  When employing individuals under the age of 18, it is a good idea to consult with competent counsel to determine whether the position a person who is under age 18 is being hired to fill is a permitted occupation under the law.  For more information regarding restricted occupations, see my article “School’s Out for the Summer” at www.paveselaw.com/publications.

[1]  OSHA Trade News Release, June 11, 2010. A note to the reader:  This article is intended to provide general information and is not intended to be a substitute for competent legal advice.  Competent legal counsel should be consulted if you have questions regarding compliance with the law.  Questions regarding the content of this column or past columns may be e-mailed to Christina Harris Schwinn. To view past columns written by Ms. Schwinn please visit the firm’s website at www.paveselaw.com.  Ms. Schwinn is a partner and an experienced employment and real estate law attorney with the Pavese Law Firm, 1833 Hendry Street, Fort Myers, FL 33901; Telephone:  (239) 336-6228; Telecopier:  (239) 332-2243