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The Occupational Safety and Heath Act

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Occupational Safety and Health Act

The Occupational Safety and Heath act

Just imagine working in an environment where there are very few safety regulations, and little safety equipment. Think of how it was for employees of a steel manufacturing plant to work where there are almost no safety regulations and safety hazards all around you. This is how the work environment was before 1970; there were only few laws or regulations that required employers to maintain certain safety standards or working conditions for employees. However in 1970 President Richard Nixon sought to change all of this by signing into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

The Occupational Safety and Health Act's mission is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, and education; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health (OSHA.org). OSHA covers an extremely wide array of workers, from construction workers to office workers. However when the act was first passed it was not heavily enforced and lacked inspectors. In 1970 because there were three times as many fish and game wardens than there were OSHA inspectors, people said that the trout and quail were more protected than Americas working men and women (Bennett, Alexander, & Hartman, 2003). Though today OSHA has approximately 2100 inspectors, plus complaint discrimination investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standards writers, and other technical and support personnel spread over more than 200 offices throughout the country (OSHA.gov). So unlike in 1970 there are enough inspectors and other personnel to help protect employees.

OSHA states that any employer that has employees and is in a business affecting commerce (which is most employers) are required to follow OSHA's requirements. There are two requirements that the act imposes on employers to accomplish a safer workplace. First the employer must comply with all of the safety and health standards dictated by the department of Labor, this is most often called the "compliance" requirements. Second, the employer must give each of its employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or physical harm, this is a very broad requirement and is often referred to as the "general duty" clause (Bennett, Alexander, & Hartman, 2003). This clause if often used in trial by the prosecution and the employer is most often not able to defend against it.

At the time of an inspection the inspector goes to the workplace unannounced to ensure that they are viewing the workplace in the same condition as the employees. If someone if caught giving advance notice of an inspection they could be fined up to $1000 (Bennett, Alexander, & Hartman, 2003). During an inspection the inspector will conduct a "walk around" to visually inspect the workplace. At the end of the inspection the inspector will discuss the violations or potential violations with the company owner, the inspector will also discuss any concerns or give the owner solutions to problems that he or she may have. If the employer is found to have violated OHSA's policies

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