In 1970 Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
It mandates that employers provide a workplace free of hazards. It also provides that employers who subject or expose workers to such hazards must pay the government fines and obey administrative orders that they "abate" (or remove) the hazard(s). OSHA is the law of the land and generally takes precedence over all other safety laws.
To understand OSHA, consider how safety considerations play a major role in personnel administration. OSHA cannot be isolated from the rest of what you do - - it's part of a workplace law that also includes disability discrimination law and workers compensation.
Discard the baggage of old myths and misconceptions about safety.
“It's all in the hands of the safety department “
Most safety issues are human resource management problems, not risk management problems. Too often HR managers disconnect themselves entirely from the entire safety function. In certain instances, it is true - - - unfortunate catastrophes such as plant explosions or highly destructive fires - - the risks involved are insurance problems first and foremost. But the overwhelming majority of safety (and workers comp situations) belong in the personnel arena. Effective but fragmented management by the corporate safety function is not always a smart way to administer what are in reality HR problems.
“You can’t fire an employee for breaking a safety rule”
Many employers assume that safety rules, as important as employee observance of them is, can never be the subject of discipline, much less discharge. This is untrue. The government has no power to sanction employees for violating OSHA. But you do.
However, no violation of safety rules can stick if you do a superficial job of publishing the rules and training employees in their implementation. Safety rules:
must be laid out in neon lights in all employee handbooks, supervisor's manuals, bulletin board postings, etc.
must be the subject of management training programs on a regular basis
must be the subject of employee safety training on a regular basis
must be a topic of any safety committee agenda
must be audited for the effectiveness of rules implementation
must be fair game for all in-house grievance or concerns procedures so that employees with issues about safety can have a forum to express them