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October 14, 2011
Employee Responsibilities Under the General Duty Clause

Employees as well as employers have responsibilities to contribute to a safe workplace under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The General Duty Clause states that employees must comply with all OSHA standards as well as any other rules, regulations, or orders under the Occupational Safety and Health Act that apply to your own actions and conduct on the job.

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This means that employees share responsibility for workplace safety. Do your employees understand these obligations? Here's some information to give them. Specifically, employees are responsible under the General Duty Clause for:

  • Understanding and complying with the requirements of OSHA regulations that apply to your work and work area.
  • Obeying the safety rules the company develops in response to the requirements of OSHA regulations or the General Duty Clause.
  • Using personal protective equipment required by OSHA regulations and company safety rules.
  • Reporting any safety or health hazards you discover on the job—whether they apply to your work and work area or someone else’s.
  • Reporting any job-related injuries and illness so that the company can record the incident, investigate, and take steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Employees also have rights under the General Duty Clause. Based on the provisions of the General Duty Clause, you have the right to review information about workplace safety and health such as:

  • Copies of OSHA regulations, especially those that apply to your job
  • Certain safety- and health-related company records, including the OSHA 300 log, which records all workplace injuries and illness that result in lost workdays
  • Written company safety and health programs developed in response to specific OSHA standards
  • Results of workplace monitoring and testing
  • Information regarding hazardous materials, including material safety data sheets (MSDSs)

The General Duty Clause also protects employees from being singled out, threatened, or fired for taking actions in relation to OSHA or workplace safety such as:

  • Talking to OSHA about safety concerns on the job
  • Asking OSHA to come into the workplace and evaluate potentially hazardous conditions or possible violations of OSHA standards
  • Talking to OSHA inspectors who come to the facility, asking questions, providing answers, or even pointing out specific hazards
  • Discussing safety concerns with co-workers or union officials
  • Asking the company to fix unsafe conditions
  • Provide additional safety training

The above information comes from BLR’s presentation "Introduction to OSHA and the General Duty Clause." For more information on all the training courses BLR has to offer, go to our Safety Training Materials & Resources page.

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