Almost every private sector business in the United States is subject to the mandates of OSHA and, in California, the requirements of Cal/OSHA.
Employers are required to keep their workplaces safe and to minimize the hazardous conditions inherent in their industry. This is largely the result of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which triggered the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions in the American workplace.
In addition to setting and enforcing standards, both OSHA and Cal/OSHA provide a variety of training, outreach, education and assistance resources.
Health and Safety Compliance Requires Diligence
For most workers, OSHA is probably not a prominent part of their working life. For some in particular industries, such as construction or manufacturing, their interaction with OSHA may be more frequent.
For most employers, OSHA often represents legal requirements to be complied with and potential fines for violations. While there is much more to OSHA than violations and fines, they do represent a looming prospect for almost every employer in California.
The agency focuses on a set of particular industries for somewhat more stringent requirements since the nature of the work in these industries is inherently more dangerous or risky. These include construction, manufacturing, health care and agriculture.
Because the number of specific standards and regulations can be both difficult to remember and difficult to comply with consistently, many businesses assign the management, oversight and enforcement to individual employees. The overriding goal is to ensure the health and safety of employees in the workplace. The secondary objective is to ensure consistent compliance to OSHA requirements.
Periodic visits from OSHA inspectors can expose non-compliant businesses to violations, citations and fines. And these fines can range from as little as less than $100 to more than $8,000 for each violation.
Top Five Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards in 2018
Each of these industries has health and safety issues somewhat unique to their field. OSHA tracks, indexes and catalogs every citation and the fines levied each year. Recently, the agency released figures for the year 2017. (Note: The rankings are current as of October 15, 2018.)
In the healthcare industry sector, OSHA lists a set of subsectors. Hospitals are one of these. According to an article at The Horton Group,
"Establishments in the hospitals subsector provide inpatient health services, many of which can only be provided using the specialized facilities and equipment that form a significant and integral part of the production process."
1. Bloodborne Pathogens - Protection against occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials.
2. Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) - Following minimum performance requirements for controlling energy from the unexpected start-up of machines or equipment.
3. Reporting Fatalities, Hospitalizations, Amputations, and Losses of an Eye - Following the reporting guidelines set by OSHA following death, hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye due to a work-related incident.
4. Hazard Communication - Properly transmitting information on chemical hazards through a comprehensive program, container labeling, SDS and training.
5. Asbestos – Regulating asbestos exposure in all work as defined in 29 CFR 1926.1001, as well as construction-specific circumstances, to keep employees safe from hazard.
Probably one of the most recognized industries in regards to workplace safety is the construction field. A blog post at Construct Connect noted that,
"With dozens of industries covered, providing a list that covers all industries doesn’t provide much insight into which standards are most cited for a specific industry, like construction. OSHA also has separate sets of standards with different rules to control safety concerns for the construction, agriculture, and maritime industries."
1. Fall Protection - Duty to have fall protection.
2. Scaffolds - General requirements for proper scaffolding.
3. Ladders - Ladders use and safety precautions.
4. Fall Protection -Training requirements for preventing falls.
5. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment - Providing eye and face protection.
While similar to the construction industry in a number of ways, manufacturing has it's own set of health and safety requirements within OSHA.
According to an article at The Horton Group, manufacturing is comprised of,
"Establishments engaged in the mechanical, physical or chemical transformation of materials, substances or components into new products."
1. Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) - Controlling energy from the unexpected start-up of machines or equipment.
2. General Requirements for All Machines - Providing proper machine guarding to protect the operator and other employees from hazards.
3. Hazard Communication - Properly transmitting information on chemical hazards.
4. Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals – Preventing or minimizing the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals.
5. Mechanical Power-transmission Apparatus - Following the general requirements on the use of power-transmission belts and the maintenance of the equipment.
California Employers and "Whistleblowers"
When a worker reports an alleged OSHA violation to a supervisor or manager, this is considered to be in accordance with expected workplace policies. However, if the management fails or refuses to correct the alleged violation, and the worker chooses to notify OSHA directly, the worker is considered a "whistleblower."
While this may be unfortunate for the employer, matters can be made far worse if the management decides to punish or fire the worker who made the report. According to an OSHA press release from April 2018, one company did just that.
" The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered Mr. Good Vape LLC of Chino, California, to reinstate a former manager and pay him $110,000 in compensation after he was fired for claiming the company’s production of flavored liquids for e-cigarette vapor inhalers violated federal environmental law.
On May 6, 2015, after learning that the manager reported his concerns to the California Department of Environmental Protection, the company suspended him, then terminated him two days later. An OSHA investigation concluded that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) protected the former manager’s whistleblower activities, and that these activities were motivating factors in his suspension and termination.
In addition to reinstatement and compensation, OSHA ordered the employer to clear the former manager’s personnel file of any reference to the matter; and post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under TSCA and the SWDA."
Similar to the prohibitions against retaliation against workers who bring allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report real or perceived health and safety violations.
HR and Workforce Management
Outsourcing HR functions is an increasingly common strategy for small businesses and the advantages are worth asking about. In addition to reducing your in-house costs, increasing accuracy and security, you can also benefit by freeing your HR resources for improving operational functions, recruiting efforts, and training.
When it comes to payroll management, you have a number of options for your HR and payroll staff. Software that can be installed in-house, or cloud-based programs offer a good alternative. But if you really want to take full advantage of the benefits available to you, outsourcing to a provider like Accuchex can still be the best decision.
Reliability, full-service options, and reputation are the hallmarks of a quality HR management service provider. If you are currently looking to invest in outsourcing you get your free California Labor Law guide to help you make an informed decision or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.