It is quite true that employers have the responsibility to supervise the health and safety of its employees in the workplace. Companies who ignore the need to assure its employees should be punished and those who render their workforce a secure facility should be hailed and honored as models. Government regulations are always implemented to protect the lives of workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHact) is one example of the various laws passed by the Congress. Nevertheless, there is one particular provision in the OSHact that is ambiguous; this section is often called the “General Duty Clause”.
According to the act, the General Duty Clause states that: (2a) Each employer (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; (2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act. (2b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health hazards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.
The increasing awareness of the various work-related accidents in society has urged the Congress to enact such provision of the law. The General Duty Clause obliges employers to recognize all types of hazards in their workplace. It also expects that employers should design and maintain the safety of the workplace to minimize any accidents that the identified hazards may bring to the employees (http://www. epa. gov). Due to this section of the OSHact, The Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) visit all working facilities to inspect any violations regarding the said provision.
The employers should then devote some of their resources on useful expertise and knowledge to reduce if not to eliminate hazards. Furthermore, the General Duty Clause has a very broad scope that compliance to it seems to be so arduous (http://www. dem. ri. gov). The article expects that beside the accredited standards and hazards known to the OSHA, the employers also need to pin point unknown and undiscovered hazards in their facilities. Therefore, although there is no detailed standard regarding a hazard, the company can be cited for violation (Robins, 1988, p. 31).
This can be very demanding since a single skipped hazard however simple may put the company into jeopardy if the OSHA representative finds it out before the management does. Another difficulty that the employer can encounter is the inadequate capacity of the management to accommodate the means to eliminate or reduce the hazard (http://www. dem. ri. gov). This is especially important to small businesses and companies who are not financially ready to solve such problems. The General Duty Clause is very advantageous to employees and workers.
Such is so because the OSHA inspector has great power regarding this section of the Act. The inspector can manipulate violations and hazards in the way that can jeopardize the company. Since the inspector is supposed to examine the workplace and the system processes occurring in the workplace, he can pinpoint even the smallest hazard in the vicinity. He can even be paying attention at a possible hazard that to him is viable but in reality and in the company’s context is not a hazard at all.
This is possible because the General Duty Clause does not only speak of recognized hazards that have written standards from the OSHA. The General Duty Clause, as its name implies, encompasses all possible hazards even those that are yet to be discovered. A violation in the OSHA can overthrow the success of a company. Thus, such a situation is one of the events that the employers are frightened about. An OSHA representative can simply walk into your factory and find pitfalls that can damage the profits of the company.
Even at some instances, the inspector can find a new hazard that has never been known in the entire history and yet it finds it a hazard in your community. This simple violation can then cause the closure of the said facility. Another headache that can be caused by the General Duty Clause is the over assurance that it can produce to an employer’s workforce. In liberal and radical environments, the workers’ union can exaggerate the possible hazards that are not really potentially dangerous and file a case at the OSHA.
These then can overly demand a pile of benefits that can deplete the resources of the company. Some accidents may happen in a facility and yet no hazard can be the root cause of such occurrences but the workers’ union can still file a case against the company because of the provision of the General Duty Clause. Although accidents do happen, sometimes these are not actually due to the dangers of the workplace but rather due to the incapability, carelessness or ignorance of employees.
The General Duty Clause has an excellent aim that is to provide a safe working environment for employees. This is an important goal for the employer who regards his people as his most significant asset. Nevertheless, the whole text of the General Duty Clause has so much ambiguity that sometimes, some opportunistic employees and inspectors use it against the company and thus ruin its existence. It should therefore be used and implemented with dignity and justice to create a more cooperative interrelationship between the OSHA, the employer and its employees.
Courtney from Study Moose
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