Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. When they fail to do this, they may be cited by state and local officials for violations that place workers at risk.
Basic Safety Responsibilities
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set up rules that establish the basic safety responsibilities of every employer. They must find and correct safety and health problems in the workplace. OSHA rules further stipulate that employers try to reduce hazards to the extent possible by making feasible changes in working conditions, such as:
• Switching to safer chemicals
• Enclosing areas where harmful fumes are emitted
• Properly ventilating areas where fumes are present
In general, OSHA regulations favor practices that reduce risk generally rather than those that rely on personal protective equipment to stop employees from suffering harm.
Employers are required to perform safety standard tests, such as air sampling. They may also be required to perform work-related medical exams, such as hearing tests or chemical exposure tests.
In addition to changing practices, employers are responsible for educating employees about hazards through a variety of methods, such as:
• Training about hazards
• Employing alarms to alert of certain hazards
• Using color-coded systems to describe hazards
• Making material safety data sheets available
All education must be presented in language and vocabulary that employees can understand.
Employers are also supposed to educate employees of their rights under OSHA regulations, which include the right to report workplace violations to OSHA. Employers are also supposed to post OSHA citations and reports of injury and illness that occur in the workplace. Employers must also display the official OSHA poster in a prominent area.
Record-Keeping and Reporting Responsibilities
Employers are also responsible for keeping accurate records of work-related illnesses, accidents, and injuries. They are supposed to notify OSHA within eight hours of a workplace fatality or when three or more workers are hospitalized related to a workplace incident.
Workers’ Compensation: Is an Employer Always Responsible?
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system for compensating victims of workplace injuries. It doesn’t matter whether an employer is directly at fault for a workplace injury or not—compensation is still paid to the injured employee. However, employees that maintain a safer workplace often receive discounts on workers’ compensation insurance, which they often see as a good trade-off, not to mention the retention of qualified, productive employees on the job rather than in the hospital.