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Thread: OSHA questions

  1. #1

    OSHA questions

    ...as always, if there's a clear-cut article somewhere (on this forum or elsewhere) I will accept it
    gracefully, but I'm just about googled out at this point, so here goes:

    Hypothetical Scenario:

    You're a builder of machines (picture robots or conveyors and the like...)

    The machine is broken, and you're sent to fix it.

    According to OSHA,
    1) Whose safety policies must you follow? The factory you are in? Or the factory your paycheck comes from?
    2) What if the factory is not in the USA?
    3) What if the policies are contradictory?

    In other words - if your boss doesn't insist on safety shoes here (even though he should), so you don't wear them in Mexico, whose fault is it?

    Something more serious - live electrical work - your boss mandates insulated tools here, but you lose your luggage, so you do hot work without them in France...whose butt is on the line, per OSHA?

    My interpretation is - your boss is responsible in all these scenarios - but I could be wrong.

    (I'm not talking about the superfine points of "should have known," etc. - I just mean an overall broad view of things...)

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by CEDEng View Post
    ...as always, if there's a clear-cut article somewhere (on this forum or elsewhere) I will accept it
    gracefully, but I'm just about googled out at this point, so here goes:

    Hypothetical Scenario:

    You're a builder of machines (picture robots or conveyors and the like...)

    The machine is broken, and you're sent to fix it.

    According to OSHA,
    1) Whose safety policies must you follow? The factory you are in? Or the factory your paycheck comes from?
    2) What if the factory is not in the USA?
    3) What if the policies are contradictory?
    I think that item 1 has the clearest answer:
    A. The customer in whose facilities you are working has a safety policy. That applies to all work being done in the facility by employees, contractors and subcontractors. If you are employed by a vendor, it is likely that the customer policy does not apply to your work since there is no contract between them and your employer. If there is a service contract for the equipment, the answer may change.
    B. You are always covered by the safety policy of your employer when you are working on their behalf, regardless of the location. That said, your company safety policy may (but is not likely to?) have explicit provisions for work done "off site" on their behalf.

    For 2, I cannot say whether OSHA would have any jurisdiction over work done for a US employer outside the US. The employer's safety policy may be worded to cover all work regardless of location.

  3. #3
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    2) What if the factory is not in the USA?
    This question is relatively easy to settle.

    29 U.S. Code ยง 653 - Geographic applicability; judicial enforcement; applicability to existing standards; report to Congress on duplication and coordination of Federal laws;...rights, duties, or liabilities of employers and employees unaffected

    (a) This chapter shall apply with respect to employment performed in a workplace in a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Lake Island, Outer Continental Shelf lands defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act [43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq.], Johnston Island, and the Canal Zone. The Secretary of the Interior shall, by regulation, provide for judicial enforcement of this chapter by the courts established for areas in which there are no United States district courts having jurisdiction.
    Bob

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by CEDEng View Post
    3) What if the policies are contradictory?
    Safety policies are often written with a proviso that if multiple policies apply and are in conflict the most stringent policy should be followed.
    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by petersonra View Post
    This question is relatively easy to settle.
    All that tells us is whether or not OSHA requires the employer to have a safety policy applicable to such work.
    Once the company has established a safety policy which is OSHA compliant, OSHA has no authority over whether or not that policy, as written, as a matter of contract law, is applicable outside the US and territories. OSHA simply will not be involved in enforcing it in those cases.

  6. #6
    wow - I look forward to more input - this is not what I expected to see...

    I'll rephrase one part - this doesn't change my question, just another example:

    I'm working in, say, Egypt. I get injured because I am not wearing my steel toes. I'm not wearing them because my boss (here in the USA) does not have
    a steel-toe policy, and the plant I am in doesn't have one either. The nature of my work says my boss SHOULD have such a policy, but let's say he's an OSHA slacker, and, so, we don't. (Insert LOTO, insulated tools, PPE, etc., here, anything at all that my boss SHOULD train me in but doesn't.)

    Will OSHA fine him? Will I win my claim against my boss that his policies were inadequate? (Even though I am a) in a place where no such policy exists, and b) in a place where OSHA can't be enforced...)

    While I concede to the jurisdiction of OSHA as listed above, I also present that my boss's jurisdiction - and so his responsibility - is worldwide.
    (I'm not making that last bit up - that's actually the heart of my premise...)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoldDigger View Post
    All that tells us is whether or not OSHA requires the employer to have a safety policy applicable to such work.
    Once the company has established a safety policy which is OSHA compliant, OSHA has no authority over whether or not that policy, as written, as a matter of contract law, is applicable outside the US and territories. OSHA simply will not be involved in enforcing it in those cases.
    The OP asked "According to OSHA, ...". The "according to OSHA" answer is what I gave him. As for whether a contract made in the US can be enforced overseas, that is a legal question and not a simple one to be answered by amatuer lawyers.
    Bob

  8. #8
    Small adder:

    NFPA70e 110.1.I(2)

    Field work should be audited...to verify..the procedures are being followed.

    This kinda sounds like the "local" policies - established by my boss - must be adhered to wherever I am, and that a failure to follow them is probably
    ultimately my boss's problem.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CEDEng View Post
    wow - I look forward to more input - this is not what I expected to see...

    I'll rephrase one part - this doesn't change my question, just another example:

    I'm working in, say, Egypt. I get injured because I am not wearing my steel toes. I'm not wearing them because my boss (here in the USA) does not have
    a steel-toe policy, and the plant I am in doesn't have one either. The nature of my work says my boss SHOULD have such a policy, but let's say he's an OSHA slacker, and, so, we don't. (Insert LOTO, insulated tools, PPE, etc., here, anything at all that my boss SHOULD train me in but doesn't.)

    Will OSHA fine him? Will I win my claim against my boss that his policies were inadequate? (Even though I am a) in a place where no such policy exists, and b) in a place where OSHA can't be enforced...)

    OSHA just does not enforce labor safety rules in Egypt so no OSHA fines for safety violations that occur there.

    While I concede to the jurisdiction of OSHA as listed above, I also present that my boss's jurisdiction - and so his responsibility - is worldwide.
    (I'm not making that last bit up - that's actually the heart of my premise...)
    Your employer may have some moral or ethical obligation to do his best to ensure your safety where you are working on his behalf, even if OSHA cannot and does not require it due to your geographical location when doing the work. Incidentally, does your health insurance cover you when you are in Egypt? How about medical flights back home after an accident? these are things you should know before you go to egypt to work on something for your boss who does not seem to give a rat's ass whether you live or die.
    Bob

  10. #10
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    None of us are lawyers (as far as I know), so ultimately, what we think may not be worth a hill of beans. But, MY employer has a very comprehensive safety policy and I was required to sign it as a condition of employment, and I have to sign it again every year after reviewing it again (legally it's only every 3 years max, but I think they don't want to try to keep track of everyone's anniversaries). In that policy, we are forbidden from performing work entailing exposure to electrical hazards unless qualified, by OUR process, to do so, including all PPE requirements set out in OUR policies. This applies to ANYWHERE we work and because we have facilities and customers in other countries, it expressly says anywhere in the world, regardless of differences in local requirements. So for me, it's clear cut, no ambiguity. I can literally lose my job if I get caught violating our safety policies in Mexico, Egypt, or New Jersey.

    Per your Egypt scenario, if your employer didn't have a safety shoe requirement, and the Egytian company didn't either, and you got your toes chopped off and you sued your employer, a lawyer might be able to successfully argue that you were out of the jurisdiction in which the OSHA rules applied so there was no gross negligence and you get nothing. But the next day, OSHA could waltz in and fine, shut down or even arrest your employer just for not HAVING a safety policy that protects their workers, because although it may not have applied in Egypt anyway, it was exposed in court that the minimum safety requirements of your employer were not up to OSHA standards. Everybody loses (except the lawyers of course).
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