Occupational safety and health

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
The health and safety of employees has become a major concern in the workplace for many employers. Job-related injuries, sickness, or death not only costs companies' thousands of dollars in lost productivity, but they can cause grief, pain, and undue hardship to workers and their families. To help eliminate illnesses, injuries, and deaths from occurring in the workplace, several federal and state laws have established basic workplace safety and health standards to protect employees and their families. The main and most important of these laws is the Occupational and Safety Health Act, or OSHA (O-S-H-A). Under the act, employers are required to maintain workplace facilities that meet basic standards of safety and health. If they don't meet those standards, they must adopt certain practices or methods reasonably necessary to protect workers on the job. Generally, it's the responsibility of employers to become familiar with OSHA standards and to comply with those regulations. Compliance may include eliminating hazardous waste in the workplace or ensuring that employees have and use personal protective equipment when necessary for safety or health. OSHA enforces its regulations by sending agents to inspect workplaces, issuing citations when necessary, and imposing monetary penalties for violations of safety and health standards. Any employer who willfully violates the Act may be assessed a maximum civil penalty of $70,000 (seventy thousand dollars). If an employer is convicted of a willful safety violation that results in the death of a worker, the offense is punishable by a court-imposed fine or by imprisonment for up to six months, or both. Since the effectiveness of most workplace safety laws relies on employees who are willing to report job hazards, most safety and health laws prevent employers from firing or discriminating against employees who report unsafe conditions to proper authorities.

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