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The Dreaded General Duty Clause

- November 10, 2014 by Jason Rozar (View all posts by Jason)

I recently read about a company that accepted a fine under Section 5 of the OSH Act, better known as the General Duty Clause.  The general duty provisions are cited in inspections only when there are no specific standards applicable to the particular hazard involved. The General Duty Clause reads as follows:

(a) Each employer —

(1) 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;

(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

(b) 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.

There are four requirements that must be met in order to establish a general duty violation:

  1. The employer failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard to which employees of that employer were exposed;
  2. The hazard was recognized;
  3.  The hazard was causing or was likely to cause death or serious physical harm; and
  4.  There was a feasible and useful method to correct the hazard

Having a catchall ensures that OSHA has the ability to cite employers for any identified issues on a jobsite.  The General Duty Clause is all encompassing, so it’s frequently used to address hazards that are not easily identified. As an employer, it is your responsibility to make an effort to identify and address all hazards in the workplace.  Doing so will not only help you to avoid this type of citation, but it will help to protect your employees and ensure that they can go home safely every day.



“OSH Act of 1970-Sec 5: Duties.”  OSHA.gov. U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, N.D. Web. 4 November 2014.  https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=OSHACT&p_id=3359

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