Employee’s Role & Rights Under the OSH Act

Posted on 6/4/2013 by Joel Gregier

In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. The purpose of this law is, “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources” [OSH Act Sec. 2(b)].
Since the passing of the OSH Act, much of the attention has been on employers, since they are responsible for protecting their employees from workplace hazards. However, it is also important to take a look at the rights of employees under the OSH Act and their responsibilities.
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Definition of an “Employee” Under the OSH Act
Before we go into employees’ rights and responsibilities, let’s first take a quick look at the definition of an “employee.” You may find it to be somewhat comical (and obvious).
An employee “means an employee of an employer who is employed in a business of his employer which affects commerce.” [OSH Act Sec. 3(6)]
Assuming you or someone else meets this definition, let’s first discuss the rights employees are afforded under the OSH Act.
Employee Rights Under the OSH Act
Under OSHA, employees have many rights. Specifically, employees have the right to:
  • Work in safe and healthful workplaces;
  • Know about hazardous chemicals in their workplaces;
  • Receive information about injuries and illnesses in their workplaces;
  • Complain or request hazard correction from their employers;
  • Receive training about workplace hazards;
  • Examine hazard exposure and medical records;
  • File a complaint with OSHA;
  • Participate in an OSHA inspection; and
  • Be free from retaliation for exercising rights.
OSHA Safety managerMost of OSHA’s standards are created to protect these rights. But, employees also have responsibilities of their own to keep the overall workplace safe.
Employee Responsibilities Under the OSH Act
In addition to their many rights under the OSH Act, employees also have many responsibilities. First off, employees must follow all OSHA safety and health standards AND all rules issued by their employers that are intended to comply with OSHA’s health and safety standards and the OSH Act.
To fulfill their duties, employees must:
  • Read and follow all health and safety postings;
  • Follow safe work practices;
  • Help reduce work hazards;
  • Report all occupational injuries and illnesses;
  • Report hazardous conditions;
  • Cooperate during an OSHA inspection; and
  • Exercise rights under the OSH Act in a responsible manner.
The “OSHA Poster”
The OSHA poster lists the core employee and employer rights and responsibilities under the OSH Act. Employers are required by law to post this poster in a conspicuous place in the workplace for their employees to see it.
Workplace injuries and incidents cost US businesses billions of dollars a year in fines, penalties, and lost productivity. Ensure your team is prepared to identify and prevent the hazards they face on the job. The 10 Hour OSHA General Industry Online Course now includes OSHA’s new GHS criteria for hazard communication and provides an overview of major OSHA standards from electrical safety, PPE, and bloodborne pathogens to machine guarding and hearing protection. 

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