Requirements for HR Professionals: What you need to know about OSHA

In 1970 Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act and created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but it wasn’t until the nineties that OSHA started began enforcing the OSH Act.  Since that time OSHA has cut the work-related fatality rate in half; reduced overall injury and illness rates in industries where OSHA concentrated its attention; virtually eliminated brown lung disease in the textile industry; and reduced trenching and excavation fatalities by 35 percent.

Are you aware of the potential risk of injury and illness to your employees? All employees and their employers are covered under the OSH Act. That means whether or not you are in a high risk industry like construction or mining, you need to know what your employees are exposed to on a daily basis, and provide safety programs and awareness training to reduce risk and keep your employees safe and healthy. Not only is it a federal regulation, but HR professionals know that health and safety are key to a happy, productive workplace. Show your employees you care with a thoughtful, comprehensive safety program!

Here are a few steps to get you started:

1)      It’s important to know what your employees are exposed to in their work environment, and what tasks they complete on a daily basis. Depending on the size of your workforce this could be a large undertaking. Enlist the help of regional/departmental managers to do a workplace safety assessment, and have them report their findings to you.

2)      Organize a safety committee. The purpose of the safety committee should be the development and continual improvement of a safety program, including an annual training plan. Make sure to involve the final decision makers as well as folks who have “boots on the ground” and have intimate knowledge of each area of your day to day operations.

3)      Learn the regulations! “ I didn’t know” is not going to fly if you are audited by OSHA. is a great resource for employers, and has many tools available to you.  Or you can take a class, there are a number of great courses available. Check out the United Alliance Services course listing.

4)      Create a feedback loop. It is so important to get your employees involved! They will be far more likely to comply with safety regulations if they are helping to create them. Employees have a responsibility to keep their environment safe too.  Give them a channel to report safety concerns, and what is working and what isn’t.  Encourage your employees to come up with solutions.

5)      Enlist the help of a professional to review your safety plan, or to do a site audit. This will ensure you are being proactive, and won’t be caught unaware should OSHA come knocking. 

There’s more to OSHA and keeping your employees safe than hanging a poster and keeping an accident/illness log. But don’t be daunted by the task at hand, a safe and healthy workplace comes with its own rewards. If you would like more information or help with a safety plan or site audit please call our office at 877-399-1698.