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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is charged with the responsibility to:

  • Develop mandatory job safety and health standards with “separate but dependent responsibilities and rights” for employers and employees
  • Encourage and assist employers and employees to reduce workplace hazards and to implement/improve safety and health programs
  • Establish training programs to increase the number of effective occupational safety and health programs and qualified personnel
  • Conduct safety and health inspections at employer worksites
  • Enforce OSHA standards and issue citations and fines as appropriate to ensure the safety and health of employees.

OSHA safety and health standards fall into four major categories — general industry, maritime, and construction and agriculture. Standards are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 29, Part 1900-1999. Business owners should consult the CFR available at many public libraries and/or contact OSHA directly, 1999 Broadway, Suite 1690, Denver, CO 80202-5716. Employers may ask OSHA for a variance from a standard or regulation if they can demonstrate that their workplace conditions and practices are at least as effective as those required by OSHA.

With the exception of some exempt industries, employers of 11 or more employees must maintain updated records of occupational injuries. Employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt unless selected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or OSHA. Small employers who are selected to maintain records will be notified in advance and supplied the necessary forms and instruction.

Recordkeeping-exempt employers must still comply with all other OSHA Standards, including the display of the OSHA poster, reporting within eight hours an accident that results in one or more fatalities or the hospitalization of three or more employees.

OSHA has the authority to enforce safety and health standards and to conduct unannounced workplace inspections. “Upon presenting the appropriate credentials to the owner, operator or agent in charge” of a business, an OSHA compliance officer is authorized to enter during regular working hours without delay, to inspect all areas where work is performed. Inspections must take place at “reasonable times and within reasonable limits.” The inspection may include private interviews with the owner, operator and/ or any employee. After the compliance officer completes his report, the area director determines what citations, if any, will be issued, and what penalties, if any, will be proposed.

Colorado State University (CSU) offers free OSHA consultation services. Program staff are experienced professional safety and industrial hygiene consultants trained to identify safety and health hazards in your workplace. They offer recommendations to reduce or eliminate hazards. Their purpose is to help businesses meet the OSHA job regulation standards and develop an ongoing, effective safety and health program. They will provide confidential, comprehensive written reports containing their findings and recommendations. Follow-up services are available as necessary. CSU consultants do not issue citation penalties for OSHA violations. Because the program is funded by OSHA, consultants are required to notify OSHA only in instances of refusal to correct serious violations within a reasonable amount of time. The primary aim is to assist responsible small employers in establishing safe and healthful working environments. For more information contact: Colorado State University, Occupational Health and Safety Section, 1681 Campus Delivery, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. OSHA continuously strives to provide positive programs to help businesses comply with regulations and tries to avoid issuing citations and fines. Employers are encouraged to contact OSHA directly for the most up-to-date information regarding consultation services and voluntary compliance programs.

Employee “Right to Know” Laws

OSHA also enforces Employee “Right to Know” laws which apply to all businesses with employees such as contractors, manufacturers, or industrial processors who routinely work with hazardous chemicals. The law is intended to make sure that all hazardous and toxic chemicals that are produced, imported or used in the workplace are properly evaluated. If they pose a hazard to employees, employees must be notified through a “Hazard Communication Program.” The goal of the law is to reduce the growing number of injuries, illnesses and deaths caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

A “Hazard Communication Program”

If you are not sure if your business is covered by the law or to obtain specific information on the requirements for developing a “Hazard Communications Program,” you should contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 1391 Speer Blvd, Suite 210, Denver CO 80204.