Each year, more than 4,500 people die in workplace accidents. Another 2.9 million people are the recipients of nonfatal injuries on the job every year. Though tragic, these statistics lead many people to question, “If workplace fatalities and injuries are still occurring, why is OSHA important?”
Founded as the government administration arm of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA has become synonymous with enforcing laws and regulations regarding workplace safety. These regulations govern everything from the operation of heavy machinery to the presence of first aid kits in the workplace and are made to ensure workers are given protections from unsafe practices and ample coverage in the event of an accident. Since its inception, workplace fatalities have dropped by 62 percent, and occupational injuries have decreased by 40 percent even as the employment rate has nearly doubled.
Is OSHA Still Necessary?
As long as the workplace continues to exist, OSHA will continue to be relevant. Research into the science of work, harmful chemicals, and best workplace practices is consistently being explored through OSHA’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Training on emergency preparedness, laws governing workplace injuries, safety guidelines, and reporting of unsafe situations are mandated and administered by OSHA.
What Rights Do You Have Under OSHA?
Under federal law, every worker is entitled to a safe workplace under OSHA’s watchful eye. Employers must provide an environment that is free from any known safety or health hazards. However, worker’s rights do not end there. Everyone has the right to be trained in a language they best understand, even if it is not English. They must be provided any required safety gear such as gloves, goggles, harnesses, or lifelines. Workers must be protected from toxic chemicals and work on safe machinery. What’s more, workers are entitled to request an OSHA inspector visit their workplace as well as speak with an inspector without any fear of retaliation. Employers must provide reports or logs of injuries, illnesses, test results, or known hazards to any employee that asks for them. Employers who fail to provide these precautions, records or protections can be penalized by law.
Why Is OSHA Training Important?
Sadly, OSHA rights, laws and requirements are not common knowledge to every worker in an organization. Safety and health training in a company ensure that workers have the skills and knowledge they need to do their jobs safely. OSHA laws and regulations ensure that these training requirements are consistent across industries and adequately protect workers from injuries and illnesses. This type of training is often considered an investment in the workforce that will pay dividends as workers stay healthy and safe and able to perform their jobs. It also helps to lower insurance premiums and improve employee morale.
While workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths are tragic, OSHA’s presence in the workplace has dramatically reduced the likelihood of these occurrences. It also protects workers from employers who refuse to comply with the law or who are simply negligent in their safety practices.