What is OSHA's General Duty Clause?

The General Duty Clause from OSHA identifies several requirements that employers must provide for their employees related to a safe work environment. These are all general requirements that are intentionally vague so that OSHA can use them to enforce workplace safety standards in many situations.

Three Clauses

This section of OSHA’s requirements is 29 USC 654, 5(a)1, 2, and 5(b). It is a relatively short section within OSHA’s documentation but is essential for both employers and employees to understand. These three clauses are as follows:

  • 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 are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.
  • Each employer shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this act.
  • Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

Violations of the General Duty Clause

When OSHA issues a citation related to the General Duty Clause it must be for an alleged serious violation. Serious violations will typically represent an immediate hazard to employees. This can also include things like willful or repeated violations that may otherwise not qualify. Putting safety first in the workplace will help improve the way things are done, and provide protection against OSHA citations.

Employers need to keep the General Duty Clause in mind at all times as a part of their overall workplace safety efforts. If they allow a known safety hazard to remain over an extended period of time, it can result in having citations issued against them. This can include serious fines and other penalties. If someone is actually injured due to a violation of the General Duty Clause, the employer can get in serious trouble due to their neglect.

 

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