The Friedman Blog

Posted on 05/25/2016, by Jeremy Edsall

Recognizing OSHA’s General Duty Clause

The general duty clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, protects workers’ rights for safety in the workplace. It states that employers must provide employees a workplace free from hazards that could make them ill, injure or kill them. 
Although that principle seems simple to comply with, the general duty clause is one of the most cited OSHA standard in the construction industry. The average cost of a penalty was over $3,100, and inspections often result in more than one citation, raising the price of violating this standard very quickly. 
OSHA recognizes that it would be impossible to foresee and create a standard for every possible hazard present in every possible workplace. The general duty clause was created to cover hazards for which an OSHA standard does not exist.

The general duty clause applies to a hazard that (1) is present for which an OSHA standard does not exist, (2) is (or should have been) recognized by the employer, (3) was or is likely to cause death or serious harm, and (4) is correctable. 
A hazard is considered “recognized” when a recorded injury or harm has resulted from the hazard, the employer’s industry has acknowledged that the situation is a hazard, or if the situation would be considered a hazard or dangerous situation according to common sense. 
Hazards relating to ergonomics, heat and cold stress, and workplace violence all fall under the general duty clause. To avoid a citation for a general duty clause violation, take a closer look at potential hazards around your workplace. By eliminating risk now, you can protect your bottom line for the future.

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