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Workplace Safety Laws

NFPA Standards Best Practices Guide
OSHA Best Practices Guide

Written by Steve Hudgik

On the federal level several agencies are responsible for workplace safety laws in the U.S.

The word “law” is used somewhat loosely. Laws are written by Congress. However, Congress does not write the safety and environmental regulations that must be followed in the workplace.

A regulation (or standard) is defined as an explanation of the technical, operational, and legal details necessary to implement the law. In other words, OSHA regulations tell you what you need to do to obey the law. Essentially regulations and standards have the force of law, although they are not technically laws.

The Department of Labor is the government agency that has the greatest impact on workplace safety, and has issued the greatest number of workplace safety regulations and standards.

Workplace Safety Laws - Executive Orders

In addition to laws enacted by Congress, the President can issue executive orders. For example executive order 12699 specifies requirements for the "Seismic Safety of Federal and Federally Assisted or Regulated New Building Construction."

Workplace Safety "Laws" - Non-Governmental Organizations

There are also non-governmental organizations such as ANSI, NFPA and ASME that write codes and standards. Some of these codes are incorporated by reference into government regulations, giving them the force of law. In others cases state and local laws require compliance. In some cases complying with these codes is necessary simply because insurance is not available without compliance.

Department of Labor - Workplace Safety Laws

Three Department of Labor (DOL) agencies are responsible for the administration and enforcement of the regulations and standards that cover various types of workplaces, and workplace safety and health. These are the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Wage And Hour Division.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) covers:

  • Safety and health conditions in most private industries.
  • Nearly every employee in the nation with some exceptions such as miners, some transportation workers, some farm labor, many public employees, and the self-employed.

The law establishing OSHA makes employers who are subject to OSHA responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace, and for complying with OSHA standards.

OSHA sets and enforces standards, provides training, does outreach, and provides compliance assistance to employers. The employer's responsibilities include complying with all applicable OSHA standards and complying with the General Duty Clause. The General Duty Clause is a generic, overall standard that requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards.

Not all employers are directly accountable to OSHA. OSHA allows states to run their own safety and health programs, as long as those programs are at least as effective as the federal program. When there is an approved state plan, employers are responsible for complying with the state plan.

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

MSHA is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. This workplace safety law protects people employed in U.S. mines. MSHA creates and enforces regulations that cover all mining and mineral processing operations in the United States, without regard to their size, number of employees, or the method of extraction.

In addition to setting safety and health standards for mines, MSHA's regulations establish requirements for:

  • Immediate notification by the mine operator of accidents, injuries and illnesses at the mine.
  • Training programs that meet the requirements of the Mine Act.
  • Obtaining approval for certain equipment used in gassy underground mines.

DOL Wage and Hour Division

The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This workplace law provides the rules and regulations covering the employment of young workers under the age of 18. It includes minimum age limits for employment, restrictions on the times of day youth may work, and the types of jobs they may work.

The Wage and Hour Division also is responsible for safety and health standards related to agricultural field sanitation and certain temporary labor camps in the agriculture industry.

In addition to the Department of Labor, several other federal agencies have responsibilities for ensuring safety and issuing workplace safety laws.

Department of Transportation - Workplace Safety Laws

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has the authority to issue regulations that apply to interstate surface transportation. Within the DOT the agency that creates and administers these regulations is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

Commercial motor vehicle safety is the responsibility of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA issues and is responsible for enforcing compliance with regulations for truck, bus and motorcoach companies. Their goal is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. Activities of FMCSA include:

  • Creation and enforcement of safety regulations.
  • Targeting high-risk carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers for enforcement.
  • Improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies
  • Strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards
  • Increasing safety awareness.

Safety Sign Best Practices Guide

A complete reference guide to OSHA Sign Making

Marine Workplace Safety Laws

Marine safety falls under the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard has the authority and responsibility for the following activities related to marine safety:

  • Inspect commercial vessels, including those carrying passengers
  • Respond to marine environmental hazards, including pollution
  • Investigate marine accidents and casualties
  • Manage U.S. waterways
  • License merchant mariners.
  • Draft recommendations for the transit of hazardous cargo by ship, such as liquid natural gas.

In addition the Coast Guard carries out investigations to determine the cause of accidents on American-flagged (Flag State) ships or foreign ships in American waters (Port State).

Workplace Safety Laws (Regulations, Rules and Standards) Require Signs and Labels

Visual communication using signs and labels is not only important for safety, it is required by law. Each of the above federal agencies has requirements for signs and labels. How can you be sure you'll be able to comply with all regulations requiring signs and labels? Have a DuraLabel printer available.

With DuraLabel you have the most versatile label printer, plus a wide selection of tough-testing supplies. This ensures the safety signs and labels you make are long-lasting and code compliant.

Call 1-888-326-9244 today for more information.

The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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