The and safety legislations. A few decades later,

The United States Department
of Labor oversees more than 180 million federal laws that govern workplace
activities. 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 employment
laws revolves around the safety and health of employees in the workplace. A
significant employment law in this area is the Occupational Safety and Health
Act (OSHA) which is a relatively newer employment law compared to others
enacted.

 

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

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            The Occupational
Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 created the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA). With the creation of OSHA, health and safety conditions
are regulated to ensure that there are no serious hazards and that if working within
a hazardous area, employees receive any necessary training, education, and
assistance (Department of Labor, 2017). This employment law covers most
employers in the private sector and some public-sector employers in all 50
states and certain territories (Department of Labor, 2017). In the workplace, a
poster is displayed by law which identifies the right of the workers and what
the employer must do to be OSHA compliant (Rodriguez, 2017). The OSH
Administration, in addition to the Human Resource professionals, also enforces
the 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 OSHA
that exists today (Department of Labor, 2009). In 1877, Massachusetts passed
the nation’s first safety and health legislation regarding belts, shafts,
gears, and protection on elevators. Within the next two decades, additional
safety measures were implemented including: nine states provided for factory
inspectors, 13 states required machine guards, and 21 states made limited
provision for health hazards (Department of Labor, 2009).

 

In the early 20th
century, the U.S. Bureau of Labor published graphically detailed studies and
images of occupational fatalities and illnesses in the workplace. On March 4,
1913, President William Howard Taft signed a bill that established the
Department of Labor (Department of Labor, 2009). Twenty years following the
establishment of the Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, the first woman to
serve 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 and
health. This Bureau was established to help state governments improve their
health and safety legislations. A few decades later, this Bureau would be known
as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Department of Labor,
2009).

 

The Occupational Safety and
Health (OSH) Act was officially signed into law under the Nixon administration in
1970. The Act was effective on April 28, 1971 but there was a 90-day grace
period for previously non-covered employers to familiarize themselves with the
standards and provide coverage for their employees. While there were no
specific court cases that led to the inception of OSHA, there were approximately
14,000 work-related fatalities were reported each year in addition to 2.5
million work-related disabilities and 300,000 cases of job-related illnesses prior
to its official inception (Department of Labor, 2009).

 

Court
Cases and OSH

Although there were no court
cases which influenced OSHA’s inception, since its origination, OSHA has been
involved in many workplace related cases. A recent notable case was OSHA vs.
SeaWorld of Florida LLC following the death of the trainer, Dawn Brancheau. The
decision found that SeaWorld did not have adequate precautions to prevent serious
bodily harm or death to its trainers (OHS, 2014). In 2016, five companies faced
OSHA violations and over $115K in fines following inspections of multiple
safety hazards at a construction site. Especially in the construction industry,
fall prevention is a large area where most companies have violations as there
is 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 in
the workplace (NSC, 2017). Since its implementation as an Act, the OSH
Administration has handled many court cases to protect employees and their
safety in the workplace.

 

OSHA and Human
Resources

Under the OSH Act, employers are required
to display the federal OSHA “Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law” poster in a
visible place. If there are also state-specific OSHA legislations, then that
poster with the state-specific should also be displayed in the workplace (Department
of Labor, 2017; Rodriguez, 2017). The Human Resources employee for the company
not 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-related
injuries, fatalities, or illnesses which may have occurred. If these are not
documented correctly or within the required time, then the company is subjected
to penalties and violations (Department of Labor, 2016).

 

Human resources professionals play an
important role in workplace safety as they know their workplace, especially the
employees and the demands of the job (CCOHS, n.d.). While it is not required to
know the technical aspects, it is important to understand the basics of the state
and federal regulations for workplace safety, especially if the company may be
in violation of one of those regulations. In most companies, the health and
safety responsibilities fall on the Human Resources professional where they may
need to ensure that personnel management policies are implemented (CCOHS, n.d.).

 

Why OSHA?

After reading about the various employment
laws that are enacted in the workplace, there is one area that is important for
all industries, safety in the workplace. Since employees spend most of their
daily 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 a
Human Resources professional, it is important to understand the basics of OSHA
regulations to ensure that no violations are occurring in the workplace.
Especially as technology and times are rapidly changing, it is important to
understand the various employment laws and the aspects of the Human resource
field that it impacts.

 

 

References

Canadian 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. Retrieved
from https://www.thebalance.com/list-of-employment-laws-2062282

 

National
Safety Council (NSC). (2017). OSHA’s top 10 violation for 2017 revealed at NSC
Congress & 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 news
release – Region 5. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/region5/06142016

 

United States Department of Labor. (2017). About OSHA. Retrieved
from https://www.osha.gov/about.html

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