Thought Leadership


Addressing the General Duty Clause in an OHSMS

June 6, 2013
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+

ISHN Guest BlogPosted by permission

http://ohsas18001expert.com

Teresa Dunmire’s blog OHSAS 18001 Expert

Recently, I have noticed an increase in statements that some particular safety program or another is required because of the OSHA General Duty Clause. Often, this statement is tied to a pitch for consulting services or to promote a fill-in-the-blank template for whatever safety program is being discussed. 

These statements are often a misrepresentation of what the general duty clause actually requires.

What is the “General Duty Clause”?

There is no OSHA “general duty clause” regulation. The “general duty clause” is simply a shorthand reference to section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 which states –

Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.

Over the last 40 years, there have been a number of court decisions interpreting this section of the law.  These cases have established the requirements that OSHA must be meet in order to bring a “general duty clause” enforcement action against a particular employer.  These requirements are –

  • There must be a “recognized” hazard – either actual knowledge on the part of the employer or common knowledge in the employer’s industry (for example, set out in an applicable ANSI standard);
  • There must be either an employee death or serious injury, or a substantial probability for serious physical harm, that is directly caused by the hazard; and
  • Feasible means must exist to materially reduce the hazard.

The General Duty Clause clearly is not a documentation requirement to be cited when no other OSHA regulation applies.  It is a requirement that recognized hazards need to be addressed in order to prevent serious injuries.

Since I spend much of my time drafting and using management system standards, the OSH Act “general duty clause” requirements appear to me to be very similar to the “risk assessment” and/or “corrective action” requirements set out in the various management system standards, including OHSAS 18001, ISO 14001 and ISO 9001.

These requirements are –

  • Establish processes to identify hazards and/or nonconformities (i.e. identified problems likely to cause harm);
  • Assess these and determine the need for action (analyze the probably and extent of likely harm and actions needed to reduce the risk); and
  • Take the actions needed to control the hazards and review the effectiveness of those actions.

If an organization establishes an OHS management system with robust processes that are designed to proactively “recognize” and assess hazards and then implements feasible means of addressing these hazards, it will also improve its compliance with the “general duty clause” requirements set out in the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Teresa Dunmire is founder and president of  ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc.

STAY CONNECTED

Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn Google + icon

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

ASSEâ??s Safety 2014 Review

A gallery of photos from the sprawling Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, where ASSE’s annual professional development conference was held June 8-11. All photos courtesy of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

6/26/14 2:00 pm EDT

Realizing ROI from Your Gas Detection Program

This presentation will cover why a safe workplace equates to good business, why keeping workers truly safe from hazardous gases requires a complete gas detection program, and how your investment can ensure an ROI to your overall business.

ISHN Magazine

ISHN0714_cover.jpg

2014 July

In this month's issue of ISHN, check out the top training companies and find out who the winners of the ISHN/ASSE Safety 2014 awards are.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE ISHN STORE

M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - May 2014

ISHN0514FDO_cover.jpgFor Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. CHECK OUT THEMAY 2014 ISSUE OF FDO HERE

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.