The General Duty Clause elucidate that the employer has an obligation to protect workers from serious and recognized workplace hazards despite there being no standard. Employers must accept any and all abatement actions that are feasible to eliminate these hazards. OSHA can inspect and issue a citation under the General Duty Clause if an employer declines to correct hazardous conditions.
One example of this is Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), it affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons due to workers being exposed to risk factors at work, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and repetitive task. Many workers have been seriously injured from such hazards, however there are no specific OSHA standards applicable to this situation. Hence if the conditions are deemed hazardous by an OSHA compliance officer the employer may be cited under the General Duty Clause.
OSHA’s Criteria for Issuing a General Duty Clause Citation
Workers have the right to look to the General Duty Clause if there are hazardous conditions. However, before OSHA will issue a citation, some conditions that must be satisfied.
There Must Be a Hazard
When inspecting a worksite, the OSHA compliance officer must find that workers are exposed to hazards and that the employer has failed to mitigate conditions. In some predicaments, the manifestation of a serious accident, injury or even a fatality provides the evidence and verification of the hazards. A OSHA compliance officer is likely to issue a General Duty Clause citation in situations where accidents and injuries are present and yet there is no standard.
The definition of recognized hazard is that the employer was aware or knowledgeable of the hazard in that situation, the hazard is blatant and it is repeatedly occurrence within the industry. When the hazard or the danger is one that is generally known in the employer’s industry, this also gratifies the criterion and then becomes a “recognized hazard”. Any evidence such as a fact sheets or known to be rejected practice or standard in the industry. Other evidence is that it is contrary to suppliers’ standards for use, would mean that the employer is educated and comprehends the hazardous condition.
The Hazard Could Cause Serious Harm or Death
The hazard must have a substantial probability for serious physical harm if hazards are not mitigated by employer. This is applied fairly broadly, and can include any potential impairment of the body that affects life functioning on or off the job (usually requiring treatment by a medical doctor), whether temporary or permanent, such as occupational asthma or carpal tunnel syndrome.