OSHA Law & Regulations

Author: Yana A. St. Clair, Esq.

OSHA Law & Regulations

In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which zealously upholds that it is key to prepare for potential workplace emergencies, designs and enforces standards to ensure a safe work environment.
According to the OSH Act of 1970 (OSH Act), employers can be held accountable if they do not provide a safe and healthful workplace to their employees. To achieve its mission "to reduce on the job injuries, illnesses and deaths," OSHA is setting and enforcing standards in various areas of the work environment. To help duly enforce its regulations, the administration is providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

The covered employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards, and with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act. The latter requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards.
Aside from the specifically tailored standards OSHA has two general industry standards addressing workplace emergencies:

  • 29 CFR 1910, Subpart E – (Exit Routes, Emergency Action Plans, and Fire Prevention Plans)
  • 29 CFR 1910, Subpart L – (Fire Protection)

Subpart E depicts, explains and outlines the regulatory requirements for exit routes.
It also clarifies what an acceptable Emergency Action Plan and Fire Prevention Plan must encompass.

Subpart L contains the requirements for various extinguishing systems, details on fire detection, and other related issues.

It is important that these standards be strictly followed, as noncompliance can lead to costly and sometimes deadly consequences. According to OSHA, workplace fires and explosions kill hundreds and injure thousands of workers every year. In 1995, more than 75,000 workplace fires cost businesses in excess of $2.3 billion. (OSHA, We Can Help, 2008)

OSHA recognizes that the nature of an emergency can be multifaceted, and in 2001 came up with a revised document OSHA 3088 - How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations. According to the above referenced document, emergencies can be natural or manmade and include events ranging from floods, fires and chemical spills, to civil disturbances and workplace violence that can result in traumas, sufferings and even death.

In addition to the numerous handy materials that help employers/employees stay informed, OSHA provides various types of trainings. There are well structured on-line courses, which is quite a convenient way to address these issues in our electronically savvy work environment. They provide comprehensive information and numerous practice opportunities to employees as well.

OSHA’s creed addressing workplace emergencies is: "being prepared for the worst is the best way to avoid the cost.” (OSHA, We Can Help, 2008) This ranges from monetary fines, to potential wrongful death compensation.
To ensure that the regulations are regularly updated and strictly followed, OSHA has in place a checkup system to hold employers accountable. The fines for not complying can be gigantic, and it is safer and less costly to simply follow the rules. Not to mention the fact that the costs resulting from potential lawsuits, were injuries to occur due to lack of OSHA regulation enforcement, can be rather substantial.

By keeping up with the different standards’ requirements, the workplace is becoming safer for employees and less stressful and costly for employers.

The employees however should be active participants - contributing to the effort of keeping the work environment a safer and a healthful place.

Relion advanced protection & control.
BeijingSifang June 2016