The United States Departmentof Labor oversees more than 180 million federal laws that govern workplaceactivities. These laws include regulations of hiring, wages, salary,discrimination, harassment, benefits, recruiting and selecting employees,privacy, safety, and other workplace issues (Doyle, 2017). An area of employmentlaws revolves around the safety and health of employees in the workplace. Asignificant employment law in this area is the Occupational Safety and HealthAct (OSHA) which is a relatively newer employment law compared to othersenacted. Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) The OccupationalSafety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 created the Occupational Safety and HealthAdministration (OSHA). With the creation of OSHA, health and safety conditionsare regulated to ensure that there are no serious hazards and that if working withina hazardous area, employees receive any necessary training, education, andassistance (Department of Labor, 2017). This employment law covers mostemployers in the private sector and some public-sector employers in all 50states and certain territories (Department of Labor, 2017).
In the workplace, aposter is displayed by law which identifies the right of the workers and whatthe employer must do to be OSHA compliant (Rodriguez, 2017). The OSHAdministration, in addition to the Human Resource professionals, also enforcesthe laws and regulations enacted by the OSH Act. Early History of OSHA In the 19th century,safety was not a priority in the workplace and thus was different than the OSHAthat exists today (Department of Labor, 2009). In 1877, Massachusetts passedthe nation’s first safety and health legislation regarding belts, shafts,gears, and protection on elevators. Within the next two decades, additionalsafety measures were implemented including: nine states provided for factoryinspectors, 13 states required machine guards, and 21 states made limitedprovision for health hazards (Department of Labor, 2009). In the early 20thcentury, the U.S. Bureau of Labor published graphically detailed studies andimages of occupational fatalities and illnesses in the workplace.
On March 4,1913, President William Howard Taft signed a bill that established theDepartment of Labor (Department of Labor, 2009). Twenty years following theestablishment of the Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, the first woman toserve as a member of the Cabinet, was appointed to the Secretary of Labor role.During her time as Secretary, Perkins created the Bureau of Labor Standards,which was the first permanent federal agency established to promote safety andhealth. This Bureau was established to help state governments improve theirhealth and safety legislations.
A few decades later, this Bureau would be knownas the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Department of Labor,2009). The Occupational Safety andHealth (OSH) Act was officially signed into law under the Nixon administration in1970. The Act was effective on April 28, 1971 but there was a 90-day graceperiod for previously non-covered employers to familiarize themselves with thestandards and provide coverage for their employees. While there were nospecific court cases that led to the inception of OSHA, there were approximately14,000 work-related fatalities were reported each year in addition to 2.5million work-related disabilities and 300,000 cases of job-related illnesses priorto its official inception (Department of Labor, 2009).
CourtCases and OSHAlthough there were no courtcases which influenced OSHA’s inception, since its origination, OSHA has beeninvolved in many workplace related cases. A recent notable case was OSHA vs.SeaWorld of Florida LLC following the death of the trainer, Dawn Brancheau. Thedecision found that SeaWorld did not have adequate precautions to prevent seriousbodily harm or death to its trainers (OHS, 2014). In 2016, five companies facedOSHA violations and over $115K in fines following inspections of multiplesafety hazards at a construction site. Especially in the construction industry,fall prevention is a large area where most companies have violations as thereis not enough protection equipment or procedures in place (Department of Labor,2016). Last year alone, fall protection, respiratory protection, lockout/tagout,ladder safety, and machine guarding made the list of the most cited violations inthe workplace (NSC, 2017). Since its implementation as an Act, the OSHAdministration has handled many court cases to protect employees and theirsafety in the workplace.
OSHA and HumanResourcesUnder the OSH Act, employers are requiredto display the federal OSHA “Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law” poster in avisible place. If there are also state-specific OSHA legislations, then thatposter with the state-specific should also be displayed in the workplace (Departmentof Labor, 2017; Rodriguez, 2017). The Human Resources employee for the companynot only should help maintain the poster and ensure that it is in a visible place,they should also assist with maintaining the records, documenting any work-relatedinjuries, fatalities, or illnesses which may have occurred. If these are notdocumented correctly or within the required time, then the company is subjectedto penalties and violations (Department of Labor, 2016).
Human resources professionals play animportant role in workplace safety as they know their workplace, especially theemployees and the demands of the job (CCOHS, n.d.). While it is not required toknow the technical aspects, it is important to understand the basics of the stateand federal regulations for workplace safety, especially if the company may bein violation of one of those regulations. In most companies, the health andsafety responsibilities fall on the Human Resources professional where they mayneed to ensure that personnel management policies are implemented (CCOHS, n.d.
). Why OSHA? After reading about the various employmentlaws that are enacted in the workplace, there is one area that is important forall industries, safety in the workplace. Since employees spend most of theirdaily lives at work, it is important to ensure that the workplace is safe and healthy,especially to ensure that illnesses, injuries, or fatalities do not occur. As aHuman Resources professional, it is important to understand the basics of OSHAregulations to ensure that no violations are occurring in the workplace.Especially as technology and times are rapidly changing, it is important tounderstand the various employment laws and the aspects of the Human resourcefield that it impacts. ReferencesCanadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).
(n.d.)Health and safety guide for human resources professionals. Retrieved from http://www.ccohs.
ca/products/publications/pdf/samples/humanresources.pdf Doyle, A. (2017). List of U.S. employment laws.
The Balance. Retrievedfrom https://www.thebalance.com/list-of-employment-laws-2062282 NationalSafety Council (NSC). (2017).
OSHA’s top 10 violation for 2017 revealed at NSCCongress & Expo. Retrieved from http://www.nsc.org/Connect/NSCNewsReleases/Lists/Posts/Post.
aspx?ID=241 OHS.(2014). OSHA wins SeaWorld case.
Retrieved from https://ohsonline.com/articles/2014/04/11/osha-wins-seaworld-case.aspx United States Department of Labor. (2009). Reflections on OSHA’s history.Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/history/OSHA_HISTORY_3360s.
pdf United States Department of Labor. (2016). OSHA newsrelease – Region 5. Retrieved from https://www.osha.
gov/news/newsreleases/region5/06142016 United States Department of Labor. (2017). About OSHA. Retrievedfrom https://www.osha.gov/about.html