Employment Law Basics: Getting a Grip on the Ins and Outs of OSHA

Employment laws can be confusing and downright scary.

They don’t have to be. As a public service, from now until my special Halloween webinar Answers to the World’s Scariest Employment Law Questions, I’ll be tackling each major law one by one to give you what you REALLY need to know. By the end, you’ll have handy one-page cheat sheets for each and every law and your terror level will be reduced to zero.

Today’s Topic: OSHA.

Here is basically everything you need to know about the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) in one handy post.


Who’s covered?

The majority of private employers.

What’s the purpose of the Act?

To ensure that every employee works in a safe and healthy environment.

What are its requirements on employers?

  • Provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
  • Comply with the safety and health regulations promulgated by OSHA.
  • Keep a log and summary of all workplace injuries and illnesses.
  • Keep records of safety training sessions.
  • Retain records for period of time specified by statute.

What types of hazards does OSHA regulate?

  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals;
  • Noise levels;
  • Protective gear;
  • Safety training.
  • Etc.

Does an employer have specific obligations with regard to serious accidents?

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Yes. Employers must notify OSHA within eight (8) hours of learning of any workplace accident resulting in the death of at least one employee or the hospitalization of three or more employees.

What are the potential penalties?

  • Monetary fines;
  • Criminal penalties, including imprisonment.

Top OSHA tips

  • Keep track of the safety regulations promulgated by the states.
  • Post the “Job Safety and Health Protection” poster, available from OSHA.
  • OSHA inspectors have the authority to show up and inspect certain workplaces without notice.
  • Inspections will frequently occur after serious accidents.
  • Have a plan in place regarding how to deal with OSHA inspections.
  • It is illegal to retaliate against employees that have complained to OSHA about unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
  • Employers with 10 or fewer employees do not have to comply with certain obligations otherwise imposed by the Act

For additional questions, go to www.osha.gov

Stay tuned for more. Tomorrow we’ll de-scare-ify the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

This was originally published on Manpower Group’s Employment Blawg.

Mark Toth has served as Manpower Group North America's Chief Legal Officer since 2000. He also serves on the company’s Global Leadership Team, Global Legal Lead Team and North American Lead Team. Mark is recognized as an expert on legal issues affecting the U.S. workplace and is frequently quoted in media from The Wall Street Journal to 60 Minutes. He is also a past Chair of the American Staffing Association and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Contact him at mark.toth@manpowergroup.com.