Workplace Safety

Regulation of Workplace Safety
The federal Occupational and Safety Health Act (OSHA) primarily regulates workplace safety. States are not allowed, absent approval, to institute laws in an area that is directly regulated by OSHA. However, states may promulgate laws in areas that are not directly covered by OSHA; the extent of such regulations varies by state. OSHA is enforced by the United States Department of Labor via the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Identification of Health and Safety Problems
Workplace injuries and illnesses can arise from various conditions such as exposure to chemicals (ex. asbestos), biological conditions (ex. tuberculosis), and physical conditions (ex. noise, vibration, repetitive movement). Additionally, falls, moving machinery, fires, and workplace violence can injure employees. The protection of employee health requires a concerted effort by both employers and employees, and begins with the identification of hazardous conditions. This can be done by polling employees on the safety of the workplace, regularly inspecting the workplace for hazards, and thoroughly investigating events that led to, or could have led to, the injury of an employee.

Proactive Methods to Achieve Workplace Safety
While not exhaustive, the following list provides concrete procedures that can be used to achieve and maintain workplace safety:

  • Employers should comply with all OSHA regulations particular to them and their industry as well as applicable state safety codes
  • Employees should be trained on workplace safety, including how to recognize and remedy workplace hazards
  • Care should be taken to keep the workplace clean, and free of debris and spills that could contribute to a fall
  • Machinery and equipment should be maintained in optimum condition
  • Employees should wear protective gear suitable to their occupation and working environment
  • Chemicals and other materials should be properly labeled, handled, and stored
  • Emergency alarms should be installed and all employees should be trained on emergency protocols
  • Employees should be educated on anger management and issues such as sexual harassment
  • Workplace rules should include a clear edict prohibiting weapons of any kind being brought onto work premises
  • Employers should provide employees with the time, resources, and means to maintain a healthy working environment including, but not limited to, time away from work to attend safety training courses, clear instructions as to reporting of hazards, a suggestion box for ideas to improve workplace safety, and a library of materials (including applicable OSHA and state regulations) concerning workplace safety for reference by employees.
  • Method of accountability should be instituted for employees in charge of safety

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