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The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) of 1970 was passed by Congress in order to make sure that every working person in the country had safe and healthful working circumstances and to preserve human resources. Under the OSHAct, OSHA was put into place within the Department of Labor and was sanctioned to control health and safety conditions for all employers with very few exceptions. OSHA was created in order to:
persuade employers and workers to decrease workplace dangers and to put into practice new or advance existing safety and health principles make available research in occupational safety and health and build up innovative ways of dealing with occupational safety and health problems set up separate but dependent tasks and rights for employers and workers for the attainment of better safety and health circumstances uphold a reporting and recordkeeping system to watch job-related injuries and illnesses found training programs to augment the amount and competence of occupational safety and health personnel expand obligatory job safety and health standards and put them in force efficiently (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2010).
Under the OSH Act, employers are accountable for supplying a secure and healthful workplace. OSHA's mission is to guarantee safe and healthful workplaces by setting and implementing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is dedicated to strong, reasonable and effective enforcement of safety and health necessities in the workplace. OSHA inspectors which are known as compliance safety and health officers, are knowledgeable, well-trained industrial hygienists and safety professionals whose objective is to guarantee observance of OSHA requirements and aid employers and workers decrease on-the-job dangers and avert injuries, illnesses and deaths in the workplace. Usually, OSHA carries out inspections with no advance warning. Employers have the right to call for compliance officers to get an inspection warrant before go into the worksite (OSHA Inspections, n.d.).
Since OSHA is not required to wait until a worker is injured before inspecting a particular workplace, some people have argued that OSHA inspectors should be required to have probable cause based on evidence that a particular workplace has become dangerous before the inspector can enter the premises to conduct a safety inspection. The questions being looked at in this paper is how would OSHA's effectiveness be impacted if the courts held that inspectors must have probable cause based on evidence of dangerousness before being allowed to inspect?
For over forty years, OSHA has been working to look after America's workforce as required by the OSH Act of 1970. The prime purpose has been to guarantee safe and healthy working circumstances for working men and women by sanctioning enforcement of the principles developed under the act; by supporting and supporting the states in their labors to guarantee safe and healthful working circumstances by supplying research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health (Coniglio, 2010).
In the act there is a section that deals specifically with the topics of inspections, investigations and recordkeeping. It states that in order to perform the reasons of this act, the Secretary, upon providing suitable qualifications to the owner, operator, or agent in charge, is certified:
1) to go into the business without holdup and at rational times any factory, plant, establishment, construction site, or other area, workplace or environment where work is performed by a worker of an employer
2) to examine and inspect throughout regular working hours and at other rational times, and within practical limits and in a sensible manner, any such place of employment and all relevant conditions, structures, machines, equipment, devices, apparatus, and materials therein, and to question confidentially any employer, owner, operator or worker (Coniglio, 2010).
It is obvious that not all the workplaces that are part of the Act can be examined right away. The philosophy is that the worst situations would get attention first. Thus, OSHA has put into place a system of inspection priorities. Imminent danger circumstances are given top concern. An imminent danger is any situation where there is rational confidence that a hazard exists that can be anticipated to cause death or serious bodily injury right away, or before the hazard can be eradicated through usual enforcement measures. Serious physical injury is any type of damage that could cause lasting or extended harm to the body or which, while not hurtful to the body on a long-drawn-out basis, could cause such temporary disability as to require hospital treatment. Examples of everlasting or long-drawn-out damage include: a part of the body being crushed or severed; an arm, leg or finger being amputated; or sight in one or both eyes is lost. This type of damage also comprises that which makes a part of the body either functionally ineffective or considerably abridged in competence on or off the job. Temporary disability necessitates hospital treatment includes injuries such as simple fractures, concussions, burns, or wounds involving considerable loss of blood and necessitating widespread suturing or other healing aids. Injuries or illnesses that are hard to detect are categorized as serious if they restrain a person in performing standard functions, lead to lessening in physical or mental efficiency or shorten life (OSH Act, OSHA Standards, Inspections, Citations and Penalties, 1996).
Health dangers may comprise imminent danger circumstances when they present a serious and instant threat to life or health. For a health danger to be measured an imminent danger, there must be a realistic anticipation that toxic substances such as hazardous fumes, dusts or gases are present, and that contact with them will cause direct and irreparable harm to such an extent as to shorten life or cause decrease in physical or mental competence, even though the ensuing harm is not instantly obvious. Workers should tell the manager or employer right away if they detect or even think there is an imminent danger situation in the workplace. If the employer takes no action to get rid of the danger, a worker or the certified worker representative may inform the nearest OSHA office and ask for an inspection. The demand should name the workplace location, specify the danger or condition and include the workers name, address and telephone number. Even though the employer has the right to observe a copy of the complaint if an inspection takes place, the name of the worker is withheld if the worker so requests (OSH Act, OSHA Standards, Inspections, Citations and Penalties, 1996).
Upon inspection, if a pending dangerous situation is found, the compliance officer will ask the employer to willingly stop the hazard and to take away endangered workers from contact. Should the employer fail to do this, OSHA, by way of a regional solicitor, may apply to the nearest Federal District Court for suitable legal action to right the situation. Prior to the OSHA inspector leaving the workplace, they will counsel all affected workers of the hazard and post an imminent danger notice. Judicial action can create a temporary restraining order or immediate shutdown of the operation or section of the workplace where the imminent hazard exists. Should OSHA randomly or erratically decline to bring court action, the affected workers may sue the Secretary of Labor to force the Secretary to do so (OSH Act, OSHA Standards, Inspections, Citations and Penalties, 1996).
Walking off the job for the reason that there is a potentially dangerous workplace condition is not normally a worker right. To do so, may consequence in punitive action by the employer. Nevertheless, a worker does have the right to decline to be exposed to a looming hazard. OSHA rules guard workers from prejudice if:
Where probable, they requested the employer to get rid of the hazard, and the employer failed to do so The hazard is so immediate that there is not adequate time to have the hazard eradicated through usual enforcement measures
The hazard facing the worker is so bad that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would conclude there is a real hazard of death or serious bodily harm
The worker has no sensible option to refusing to work under these circumstances (OSH Act, OSHA Standards, Inspections, Citations and Penalties, 1996).
Second priority is given to the investigation of deaths and catastrophes resulting in hospitalization of three or more workers. Such circumstances must be told to OSHA by the employer within eight hours. Investigations are made to establish if OSHA principles were violated and to stay away from repetition of similar accidents (OSH Act, OSHA Standards, Inspections, Citations and Penalties, 1996).
Third priority is given to worker complaints of supposed violation of principles or of dangerous or unhealthful working circumstances. Also included in this group are serious referrals of dangerous or harmful working circumstances from other sources, such as local or state agencies or departments. The Act gives each worker the right to ask for an OSHA inspection when the worker feels that they are in impending danger from a danger or when they feel that there is an infringement of an OSHA rule…[continue]
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