The agency enforces standards that differ by industry, but employers can expect fairly uniform inspections.
Patty manages a cheese factory. To make its signature cheddar, the factory pumps cooked milk up into a machine to separate the curds from the whey. Patty’s reports have worked at the factory for years, so they know to step carefully when they check on the separation process — the machine is suspended above the cooking vats, supported by sideless catwalks. But when a new worker joined the factory, she slipped on the catwalk and fell several feet.
After getting the worker the care she needed, Patty returned to assess the accident and realized her oversight. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to prevent employees from falling off overhead platforms and elevated work stations by using guard rails and other means. While the injured worker made a quick and full recovery, Patty worried the factory’s safety violation was far from resolved.
Patty’s instinct was spot on. Serious injuries, like the one the worker sustained from her fall, can lead to OSHA inspections, which may reveal violations and result in expensive citations. To understand OSHA better and bring my imaginary cheese factory’s conundrum to an end, I reached out to Tiffany Hubbard, associate at McCarter & English, LLP.
OSHA exists under the U.S. Department of Labor as a federal agency, established in 1970 by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The agency is “responsible for developing workplace safety standards for preventing job-related accidents and illnesses,” Hubbard said.