There are many work-related injuries that occur each and every day. There are many organizations who strive to prevent as many of these debilitating and fatal incidents including OSHA and unions such as the Steel Workers Association in Roseville, CA, and other such organized union groups. It is important to understand how organizations such as OSHA help make the workplace a safer environment for all.
What Is OSHA?
OSHA is a government regulatory agency created in 1971 after Congress drafted and passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act on the 29th of December 1970 under the direction of then-President Richard Nixon. The role of OSHA is to aid employers and employees in the reduction of on-the-job injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Since OSHA’s creation, the incidences of workplace fatalities has been reduced by 60%, and there has been a reduction of illness and injuries on the job by 40%.
OSHA accomplishes greater workplace safety by generating workplace safety regulations for varying types of workplace industries. You can find OSHA regulations at every jobsite, from building and construction sites to hospital labs and computer-based companies. Each regulation helps keep employees safe by implementing training and work conditions.
The employers also benefit from the safety standards set by seeing a reduced payout for workers’ compensation and medical benefits, lower employee turnover rate, and decreased cost for overtime. These safety standards are accomplished through the following means:
• Education–Allowing employers and employees the means to educate all about safety standards
• Enforcement–Conducting routine safety inspections
• Cooperation–Creation of voluntary programs for outreach and assistance
Are There Exemptions?
While many workplaces are covered under OSHA rules and regulations or a state-approved and -run OSHA program, there are specific situations where a given company or entity is not under the OSHA umbrella. These exemptions may include the following:
• If you are self-employed
• Farm employees who are immediate family members of the farm owner, where outside employees are not utilized
• Federal agencies where a health and safety program is already implemented
• State and local government employees where safety programs are already enforced
While it is the employer’s responsibility to enforce the safety rules and regulations, OSHA conducts thousands of inspections yearly to ensure proper compliance. OSHA has a tiered approach to inspections and visits, placed in the following importance:
1. Reported imminent threat of fatality or serious injury or illness about to happen
2. Reported threat of fatality, injury or illness where at least 3 or more workers will be sent to the hospital
3. Employee complaints
4. Government agency referrals
5. Targeted inspections (where employee injuries have been high)
6. Follow-up inspections
OSHA and Unions
OSHA and unions work together to enforce workplace safety and place the safety of employees above all else. Union representatives have the ability to accompany OSHA inspectors and compliance officers during the facility and site inspections.
Additionally, in April of 2013, OSHA released a interpretation letter stating that where a collective bargaining agreement is not present a nonunion employee may select a unionized representative to accompany OSHA during the inspection. Additionally, unions have historically had a hand in helping create these workplace safety laws and ensuring that the laws are not just “paper laws”.
As you can imagine, it is difficult to ensure proper compliance by all companies within the United States. Unions like the Steel Workers Association in Roseville, CA, and other unionized workplaces create an environment where employees have the backing needed to raise a voice of concern without fear of retaliation. While unions best help ensure workplace safety for those employees who are within a collective bargaining unit, unions help make all workplaces safer for employees.