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