Workplace safety was primarily an issue between employees and employers. The 15,000 worker related fatalities that occurred every year inspired congress to enact a new law to protect America's workforce. The Occupational Safety and Health Act or the (OSH) act of 1970 is the most comprehensive U.S. law regarding worker safety. Under the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for inspecting employers, applying safety and health standards, and levying fines for violation.1
OSHA inspections are done unannounced and OSHA regulations prohibit notifying employers in advance of an inspection. All OSHA inspection has four main components. The first is that the compliance officer reviews the company's records of deaths, injuries, and illnesses. OSHA requires this kind of record keeping at all firms with 11 or more full or part-time employees. The second is that the representative does a "walk around" tour of the employers' premises.
The third component is that the inspector takes employee interviews. Then the closing conference is held with the employer, noting any violations. Following an inspection, OSHA gives the employer a reasonable time frame within which to correct the violations identified and a restraining order from the U.S. District Court is ordered if any of the violations could cause death.
The general duty clause is the main provision behind the (OSH) act that states each employer has a general duty to determine the criteria for specific operations or occupations and for training employers to comply with the act. It requires employers to be constantly alert for potential sources of harm in the workplace and to correct them. The general duty clause is very important because it is impossible for NIOSH regulators to anticipate every possible health and safety hazard that occurs in every workplace and keeps employers up on new developments.