What is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a sub-agency of the United States Department of Labor. The agency was created by Congress under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Signed by President Richard Nixon in December of 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act aimed to prevent all work-related injuries, illnesses and on-the-job fatalities by issuing and enforcing standards for health and workplace safety. Moreover, the Occupational Safety and Health Act wanted to create a better workplace by ensuring the safety of every employee through the creation of particular standards that are compulsory to protect the entity’s work force.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also created the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This entity, which is a research agency, primarily focuses on occupational safety and health. This agency is not a part of the United States Department of Labor.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration covers the majority of private sector work environments. The Occupational Safe and Health Act permits individual states to develop plans (each plan must be approved by the Federal Government) so long as they cover public sector employees. These state-wide plans also must provide protection equivalent to those provided under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act’s regulations. In return, a percentage of the cost of the state programs is paid for by the United States Federal Government. Currently, twenty-two states operate under plans which cover both the private and public sectors, while four states (New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, and New York) operate only public employee plans. In these four states, private sector employment remains under the coverage of federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration jurisdiction.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiates inspections to certain places whenever there is a possible hazard or danger that could precipitate an injury or fatality in the future. Furthermore, inspections can derive from worker complaints or may stem from accidents that happened in the past.
Impact of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
Provides Protection for all Moving Parts: By 1970, there were protections to prevent accidental contact with the majority of moving parts that were deemed accessible in the normal course of operation. With Occupational Safety and Health Administration, use of protections was expanded to shield all parts of a movable object where contact is possible.
Permissible Exposure Limits: This provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides maximum concentrations of chemicals stipulated by regulation for dusts, chemicals and other toxins used in a work environment. This provision covers roughly 600 chemicals and most are based on standards issued by other agencies and organizations.
Lockouts: During the middle of the 1980s, requirements for locking out energy sources when providing maintenance or performing repairs were enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These requirements essentially created rules regarding the powering down of equipment.
Personal Protective Equipment: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration implemented broader rules regarding the use of respirators, coveralls, gloves and other protective equipment when handing dangerous chemicals. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also require workers to wear goggles, face shields and ear protection in the majority of industrial environments.
Rules Regarding Confined Spaces: In the late 1990s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration implements specific requirements for air sampling and co-operative work functions for two or more workers working inside manholes, pits, tanks, bins and other enclosed areas.
Hazardous Communications: This provision, also regarded as the “Right to Know” standard was implemented in early 1980s. This portion of the Occupational Safety and health Act requires communicating and developing information on the hazards of chemical products used in the work environment.
Process Safety Management Rules: In an attempt to eliminate large scale industrial accidents, these rules are widely adapted by the petrochemical industry.
Excavations and Trenches: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations create specifications that regulate where trenches and excavations wherein employees are working 5 feet or more down must be equipped with safeguards in addition to appropriate storage and sloping of materials in order to prevent cave-ins or collapses.
Bloodborne Pathogens: During the 1990’s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a set of standards designed to prevent health care workers from being exposed to all blood borne pathogens, including HIV and hepatitis B.
Rules Regarding Exposure to Asbestos: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration established requirements for occupational exposure to asbestos filaments and fibers. These laws apply to all workplaces that utilize or work with asbestos fibers, especially those involved in construction.
Mandatory Training under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Currently it is compulsory in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Nevada, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and New York that all employees working on public jobsites must have a minimum of 10 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration training, authorized by government-appointed officials.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Effect on Asbestos:
Asbestos was commonly used in products, including insulation for pipes, building materials, floor tiles and in vehicle brakes. Asbestos includes dangerous mineral fibers, such as amosite, tremolite, chrysotile and actinolite—all of these materials are chemically altered. Heavy exposure, including inhalation, occurs in the construction industry, particularly during the removal of asbestos and during automotive clutch repair work.
Asbestos has long been recognized as a health hazard; as a result, it is now highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Inhaling asbestos fibers can perpetuate a transformation of healthy cells; constant inhalation causes a buildup of car-like tissue in the lungs. Perpetual contact with asbestos may also cause lung cancer and other diseases, including mesothelioma.
To reduce these risks, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has implemented a number of standards for the general industry, the construction industry and the shipyard employment sector. These regulations aim to reduce the risk to employees by requiring employers to provide personal exposure monitoring to assess the general risk and awareness training for all operations where there is any potential exposure to asbestos filaments or fibers.
The Occupational Safety and health Administration requires airborne asbestos levels to never exceed legal worker exposure limits. If the exposure does surpass this limit, employers are required to further institute protections by establishing regulated areas to control certain work functions. Employers are required to ensure exposure is reduced by implementing administrative controls and provide for the wearing of protective equipment. Moreover, medical monitoring of all exposed employees is also mandatory when legal limits and exposure times are surpassed.