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Safety Responsibilities


Watch this short video by WorkSafe BC - Supervision in Construction.

As "agents of the employer," supervisors assume the legal obligations of the employer to the degree they have been given authority. This module introduces you to some of the basic employer and employee obligations to each other and OSHA law. We'll also look at the obligations employees have to each other and the employer. Fulfilling these obligations is a function of competent supervisor safety management and leadership: the theme throughout the entire course.

Safety is Smart Business

It's important to understand that "doing safety" to avoid OSHA violations and penalties is the least effective safety management approach. Employers who understand the long-term business benefits of world-class safety management and leadership will be more likely to develop a proactive safety and health system that far exceeds OSHA requirements. You can learn more about developing effective safety systems in OSHAcademy course 700 Introduction to Safety Management.

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1. As an "agent of the employer" you assume the responsibilities of the employer to the degree you have been given _____.

a. authority
b. accountability
c. permission
d. access

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Supervisors work most closely with employees.

Supervisors are Directly Responsible

Successful management is the act of applying effective organizational skills and leadership is the act of applying effective human relations skills.

Supervisors must understand and apply successful management and leadership principles to make sure their employees enjoy an injury- and illness-free work environment.

Supervisors can take immediate action to make sure their work area is safe and healthful for all employees.

In his text, Occupational safety and Health Management, Thomas Anton relates the supervisor bears the greatest responsibility and accountability for implementing the safety and health program because it is he or she who works most directly with the employee.

2. "Management" is the act of applying _____ skills and "leadership" is the act of applying _____ skills.

a. organizational, human relations
b. compliance, conformance
c. objective, intuitive
d. supervisory, political

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What the Law Says

Click to read the purpose of the OSHAct.

Employers are assigned responsibility and held accountable by Section 5 (The General Duty Clause) of the OSHA Act of 1970, to maintain a safe and healthful workplace.

Excerpt: Public Law 91-596, 91st Congress, S. 2193, December 29, 1970.

An Act

To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the 'Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970'.

Section 5 (a) Each Employer -

(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;

(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this act.

(b) Each employer shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

3. The OSHA Act of 1970 states that the employer must provide a place of employment that is free from ________.

a. recognized violations
b. recognized behaviors
c. recognized hazards
d. recognized conditions

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Employer Responsibilities

Click to read employee rights and employer obligations.

Employers have clearly defined responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The following list expands those basic responsibilities that are stated throughout the OSHA standards.

  • Provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. A recognized hazard may be thought to be one that is known by or should be known by the employer, such as conditions and practices known to be hazardous in an industry.
  • Examine workplace conditions to make sure they conform to applicable OSHA standards. Hazardous conditions include tools, equipment, workstations, materials, facilities, environments, and people. Employees who, for any reason, cannot work safely should be considered as hazardous conditions in the workplace. Workplace conditions can also be thought of as worker physical or psychological states.
  • Minimize or reduce hazards. OSHA expects employers to first consider elimination, substitution, or engineering controls to eliminate or reduce hazards. Administrative controls, work practice controls, and personal protective equipment are also strategies used to minimize or reduce hazards.
  • Make sure employees have, use, and maintain safe tools and equipment. Supervisors need to identify and correct hazardous conditions and unsafe work practices before they result in injuries.
  • Establish or update operating procedures. It's smart business to develop a comprehensive written plan that addresses commitment, involvement, identification, control, analysis, and evaluation activities.
  • Communicate safety policies, procedures, and rules. This requirement is necessary so that employees follow safety and health requirements. Supervisors are key players in communicating safety expectations. Although safety committees and safety coordinators may provide help in fulfilling this responsibility, they do not assume it's solely their job.
  • Provide education and training when required by OSHA standards. Respiratory protection, bloodborne pathogens, and fall protection are examples.

4. Employees who, for any reason, are not capable of working safely should be _____.

a. considered for disciplinary action
b. subject to OSHA penalties
c. considered hazardous conditions
d. monitored for unusual results

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Employer Responsibilities (Continued)

Employers must provide adequate training.
  • Provide adequate safety education and training. Of course, any exposure to hazards requires training. Safety education at all levels of the organization is critical to a successful safety culture.
  • Report fatalities to the nearest OSHA office within 8 hours. Report an in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees or an employee's amputation or an employee's loss of an eye, as a result of a work-related incident within 24 hours.
  • Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. Provide employees, former employees, and their representatives access to the OSHA Form 300 at a reasonable time and in a reasonable manner. Post the OSHA Form 300-A summary in an area that is accessible to employees no later than February 1 of the year following the year covered by the records and keep the posting in place until April 30 of that same year.
  • Provide access to employee medical records and exposure records. Access should be provided to affected employees or their authorized representatives.
  • Do not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the Act. Employees have a legal right to communicate with OSHA. No employee should be subject to restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal for filing a report of an unsafe or unhealthful working condition. There will be more on this later in the module.
  • Post OSHA citations at or near the work area involved. Each citation must remain posted until the violation has been corrected, or for three working days, whichever is longer. Post abatement verification documents or tags. Correct cited violations by the deadline set by OSHA citation and submit required abatement verification documentation.

The list above reflects the fact that the employer has control of work and workplace conditions. Tied to that control is accountability. Now let's look at the general responsibilities employees have to their employer.

5. OSHA citations must be posted by the employer _____.

a. at or near the work area involved
b. at or near the lunch room
c. at or near a public entrance
d. at or near any bulletin board

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Employee Responsibilities

Employees must use PPE and comply with all safety rules.

Although OSHA does not cite employees for violations of their responsibilities, each employee must comply with all occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued under the Act that apply. Employee compliance is not likely unless the employer holds its employees accountable. Think of it this way: the employer is held accountable to OSHA standards, while the employee is held accountable to the employer standards.

One effective strategy for communicating this "chain of command" for accountability is for the employer to use language stressing that employees comply with the "company's safety rules" rather than the OSHA rules. Instead of having an "OSHA Manual," construct an "XYZ, Inc. Safety Manual."

Following this strategy to communicate responsibilities is important for a couple of reasons:

  • The employer communicates the message they are doing safety because they want to out of concern for their safety, not because they have to in order to comply with the law.
  • Employees at all levels should clearly understand the "chain of command" for accountability in the workplace.

According to OSHA law, employee's should do the following:

  • Follow all lawful OSHA and employer safety policies and rules.
  • Report hazardous conditions to the supervisor.
  • Immediately report any job-related injury or illness to the employer.

6. Employee compliance is not likely unless the employer _____.

a. reprimands employees for every offense
b. reports all infractions to OSHA
c. punishes all non-compliance regardless of fault
d. holds employees accountable

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Workers have the right to complain to OSHA and seek an OSHA inspection. Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 authorizes OSHA to investigate employee complaints of employer discrimination against those who are involved in safety and health activities.

Some examples of discrimination are firing, demotion, transfer, layoff, losing opportunity for overtime or promotion, exclusion from normal overtime work, assignment to an undesirable shift, denial of benefits such as sick leave or vacation time, blacklisting with other employers, taking away company housing, damaging credit at banks or credit unions and reducing pay or hours.

  • Refusing to do a job because of potentially unsafe workplace conditions is not ordinarily an employee right under the OSHA Act. (Your union contract or state law may, however, give you this right, but OSHA cannot enforce it.)
  • Refusing to work may result in disciplinary action by your employer. However, employees have the right to refuse to do a job if they believe in good faith that they are exposed to an imminent danger. "Good faith" means that even if an imminent danger is not found to exist, the worker had reasonable grounds to believe that it did exist.

The OSHA Act of 1970 gives employees only 30 days to report most acts of discrimination. OSHA conducts an in-depth interview with each complainant to determine the need for an investigation. If evidence supports the worker's claim of discrimination, OSHA will ask the employer to restore the worker's job, earnings and benefits. If the employer objects, OSHA may take the employer to court to seek relief for the worker.

7. The OSHA Act of 1970 and gives employees _____ to report most acts of discrimination.

a. 15 days
b. 30 days
c. 60 days
d. 90 days

Check your Work

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The Supervisor

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