Chapter Summary

12.1 Identify the responsibilities of both employers and employees under the general duties clause of the OSH Act.

Employers have to provide employees with a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm and are required to comply with occupational safety and health standards identified in the act.

Employees also have a duty to comply with occupational safety standards, rules, and regulations in all cases while at work.

12.2 Briefly describe what OSHA does in a worksite inspection, specifying the types of violations OSHA looks for.

OSHA can inspect a worksite without advance notice. The inspector will identify themselves and provide the reason for the inspection when they arrive. The inspector has the right to interview employees during the inspection and may do so unless the interview becomes confrontational or disruptive of the work environment. The inspector will provide the employer with a list of discrepancies upon completion of the inspection.

Violations include the following:

Willful—where the employer knew that a hazardous condition existed but made no effort to eliminate the hazard

Serious—where the hazard could cause injury or illness that would most likely result in death or significant physical harm

Other than serious—where any illness or injury incurred is unlikely to cause death or serious physical harm, but the violation does have a direct impact on safety and health

De minimis—violations that have no direct or immediate safety or health danger

Failure to abate—where the employer has not corrected a previous violation for which a citation was issued and the settlement date has passed

Repeated—the employer has been cited for the same type of violation within 5 years

12.3 Identify employer rights during an OSHA inspection.

The employer has a right to ask for identification from the OSHA inspector. The employer also has a right to know the reason for the inspection. Employers can refuse to allow the inspector into the worksite, unless they have a court order, but this is usually not a very good idea. The employer also has a right to have a representative accompany the inspector and has the right to tell employees their rights in the inspection process. The employer can also have a representative in any interviews unless the employee specifically requests that the interview be private, and the employer can stop interviews if they become disruptive. Finally, the employer has the right to contest any citations that they receive.

12.4 Discuss EAPs, EWPs, and ergonomics, specifying the value of each of these to companies and employees.

Both EAPs and EWPs help employees with their work-life balance. EAPs provide confidential counseling and other personal services to employees to help them cope with stress created by personal issues related to either work or home life. EWPs help employees with their physical wellness. They provide programs to employees such as health education, training and fitness programs, weight management, and health risk assessments.

Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population. The goal of ergonomics is to reduce stress and limit injuries caused by overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repetitive tasks. OSHA provides guidelines on ergonomics in the workplace that are voluntary but that can be assessed during an inspection based on the general duties clause of the OSH Act. OSHA also has specific ergonomic guidelines for a number of different industries, so HR representatives should check to make sure that they are following OSHA guidelines based on the industry that they are a part of.

12.5 Briefly discuss the causes of stress and how it can be managed.

The major causes of stress include personality type, organizational culture, organizational change, management behavior, type of work, and interpersonal relationship issues. Type A personalities, weak organizational cultures, rapidly changing organizations, bad management, jobs that employees don’t enjoy, and poor interpersonal relations all make stress more prevalent in the workplace. Stress management techniques include good time management skills, the ability to relax once in a while (in whatever form you choose), good nutrition, moderate amounts of exercise, positive thinking skills, and a strong personal support network. All of these tools help us cope with stress successfully.

12.6 Identify the top concerns for security in the workplace today, specifying what can be done to make the workplace more secure.

The five biggest concerns of employers today are Internet/intranet security, workplace violence, active shooter threats, business continuity planning, and mobile security. Cyber security in the form of both Internet/intranet and mobile security deals with the company’s computers and network security, including how mobile devices connect to those company systems. Workplace violence is another major issue because of the continuing rise in such incidents. Active shooter threats, while uncommon, must be taken seriously, and companies should take precautions to respond if such an incident happens to them. Business continuity planning has become a much more significant issue to most employers in the past 10 years, partly because of terrorism threats but also because of a number of large-scale environmental and natural disasters worldwide.