Quick Primer to Workplace Safety in the U.S.
Workplace safety involves identifying and mitigating potential hazards, providing proper training and equipment, and following relevant regulations and industry standards. The ultimate goal of workplace safety is to prevent accidents, injuries, and illnesses, and to promote a culture of safety and wellness in the workplace.
In the United States, workplace safety is regulated by a number of federal agencies, including:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Responsible for enforcing workplace safety regulations in most private sector industries. It sets and enforces standards for a safe and healthy work environment, and provides outreach, education, and assistance to employers and employees.
- Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA): Responsible for enforcing safety regulations in the mining industry.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Conducts research and makes recommendations on workplace safety issues.
In addition to federal regulations, some states have their own occupational safety and health programs, known as “state plans,” which may have different or additional requirements compared to federal regulations. Employers are responsible for following both federal and state regulations that apply to their workplaces.
Some of the key OSHA regulations include:
- Construction Safety Standards (1972): These standards established safety requirements for the construction industry, including requirements for fall protection, scaffolds, ladders, and personal protective equipment.
- On-Site Consultation Program (1975): This program provides free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses on how to identify and correct workplace health and safety hazards.
- Diving Standards (1977): These standards established safety requirements for commercial diving operations, including requirements for dive planning, dive equipment, and dive team organization.
- Hazard Communication Standard (1983): This regulation, also known as the “Right-to-Know” regulation, requires employers to provide information and training to employees on the safe handling and storage of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
- Laboratory Safety Standard (1990): This regulation established safety requirements for laboratory workers, including requirements for personal protective equipment, chemical hygiene, and emergency procedures.
- Cranes and Derricks Standard (2010): This regulation established safety requirements for cranes and derricks used in construction, including requirements for operator certification, crane design, and load handling.
Workplace Safety and Freelancers: What Employers Should Know
While freelancers are not considered traditional employees, they still have the right to a safe working environment. However, the responsibility for maintaining workplace safety can be somewhat different for freelancers compared to employees.
Since freelancers often work from home or a remote location, they may not have the same level of physical protection as employees in a traditional workplace. Freelancers are responsible for ensuring that their home office or workspace is safe and free of hazards. This includes ensuring that their equipment is in good working order, their work area is well-lit, and they have access to proper ergonomic support.
In addition to physical safety, freelancers also need to be mindful of their psychological well-being while working. This includes taking breaks, setting boundaries between work and personal time, and seeking support if they experience stress or burnout.
Employers who manage freelancers should be aware of the responsibilities they have with regards to workplace safety. While the primary responsibility for maintaining a safe working environment lies with the freelancer, there are several steps that employers can take to help ensure the safety of freelancers they work with:
- Clearly define the terms of the work arrangement: Employers should make sure that they clearly define the terms of the work arrangement with the freelancer, including any safety requirements or expectations. This can help to ensure that the freelancer is aware of their responsibilities with regards to safety and can take appropriate steps to protect themselves and others.
- Provide relevant safety information: Employers should provide freelancers with any relevant safety information that pertains to their work, such as instructions on how to handle hazardous materials or use equipment safely. This information should be clearly communicated and accessible to the freelancer at all times.
- Monitor compliance: Employers should monitor the freelancer’s compliance with workplace safety regulations and requirements, and take appropriate action if they identify any non-compliance. This may involve providing additional training, correcting unsafe practices, or taking other measures to ensure the safety of the freelancer.
- Ensure appropriate insurance coverage: Employers should make sure that freelancers have appropriate insurance coverage, such as liability insurance, in case of an accident or injury. This can help to protect both the freelancer and the employer in the event of a workplace incident.
- Foster a culture of safety: Employers can help to foster a culture of safety by encouraging freelancers to report any concerns or incidents, and by promoting safe work practices. They should also make sure that they are available to answer any questions or provide support to the freelancer as needed.
In conclusion, while freelancers are not considered employees under the law, employers who engage them still have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy work environment. This includes conducting a hazard assessment, communicating workplace safety policies and procedures, verifying insurance coverage, providing a safe workspace, and having emergency procedures in place.
By taking these steps, employers can help ensure that freelancers are protected from workplace hazards and promote a culture of safety and wellness in the workplace. By being proactive and taking the necessary precautions, employers can help create a safe and healthy work environment for all, regardless of whether the workers are employees or freelancers.
Author Bio: Gilad David Maayan
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.