OSHA standards are rules that describe the methods that employers must use to protect their employees from hazards. Some standards are vague while others are specific. Violating a standard can result in a monetary fine, at a minimum. Examples of OSHA standards include requirements to: provide fall protection, prevent trenching cave ins, prevent some infectious diseases, assure that workers safely enter confined spaces, prevent exposure to harmful substances like asbestos and silica, put guards on machines, provide respirators or other safety equipment, and provide training for certain dangerous jobs.
Employers that cannot comply with standard requirements or that disagree with a new standard can: 1) petition a court for judicial review; 2) request a variance from the standard; or 3) apply for an interim order that can then be appealed. Additionally, companies can petition OSHA to modify or revoke standards just as they can petition the agency to develop standards.
The OSH Act authorizes OSHA to conduct workplace inspections to enforce its standards. Every establishment covered by the OSH Act is subject to inspection by OSHA compliance safety and health officers (CSHO). CSHOs are permitted to do each of the following:
- Enter any factory, plant, workplace, construction site, or other area of the workplace or environment where work is being performed.
- Inspect and investigate during regular working hours or at other times any such place of employment and all pertinent conditions, structures, machines, apparatus, devices, equipment, and materials.
- Question any employer, owner, operator, agent, or employee, in private, during an inspection or investigation.