The OSH Act requires that an employer maintain a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm, even if there is no specific OSHA standard addressing the circumstances. This requirement is covered under section 5(a)(1), the general duty clause. An employer may be cited for a violation of the OSH Act if the condition causes harm or is likely to cause harm to employees, even in the case that OSHA has not promulgated a standard that specifically addresses the hazard.
The general duty clause is a catchall standard encompassing all potential hazards that have not been addressed explicitly in the OSHA standards. For example, if a company is cited for an ergonomic hazard and there is no ergonomic standard to apply, the hazard will be cited under the general duty clause.
Prudent safety and loss prevention professionals often take a proactive approach in maintaining their competency in this expanding area of OSHA regulations. Notification of a new OSHA standard, modification of an existing standard, revocation of a standard, or establishment of an emergency standard must be published in the Federal Register.
Safety and health professionals can use the Federal Register, or other professional publications that monitor this area, to track the progress of proposed standards. With this information, safety and health professionals can provide testimony to OSHA and, when necessary, prepare their organization for acquiring resources and personnel required to achieve compliance programs to meet requirements on time.
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