Federal law tells us that, as employers, we are to provide a workplace free from hazards which are likely to cause serious injury or death and to comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSH Act (Williams-Steiger, 1970). The reason for such laws is, because Congress found that "personal injuries and illnesses arising out of work situations impose a substantial burden upon, and are a hindrance to, interstate commerce in terms of lost production, wage loss, medical expenses, and disability compensation payments."
Accordingly, Congress passed a law, signed by President Richard Nixon, which dictates that as far as possible, every working person in the United States should have safe and healthful work and places of work. In a sense, this is an attempt by the government to legislate morality because it implies that, if left to our own devices, our tendency would be to expose workers to hazards, so their protection must come from a source bigger and more powerful than their employer. Sadly, from a historical perspective, such conclusions may have been true then as much as they are today. Without a doubt, in many situations employers have become strictly focused on the legal compliance of the OSHA regulations rather than moral implications of failure to protect workers. Compliance with "the law" rather than moral obligation has resulted in a business strategy where employers avoid punishment for violations of the OSH Act by focusing on the "letter of the law." The paper trail of complying with the regulations benefits employers in an inspection or after an incident, whether or not a worker was protected from an incident, recognized or not.
Workers and their employers would be better served if the employer and workers focused on the intent of the law: to ensure workers can return home at the end of every shift without injury. Rather than just concentrating on satisfying the interminable list of regulations handed down by OSHA, employers should also look at the big picture of protecting their employees. Management can combine the morale decision to personally safeguard workers with risk identification and management tools. This allows employers to successfully and proactively mitigate hazards and exposures and create their own solutions for worker safety without OSHA needing to tell them what to do via the prescriptive guidance found in many regulations. Rather, the organization (which includes the entire safety management system, supervisors, management, and employees, and approach to hazard mitigation) tells OSHA how and why the company makes the workplace safer and then just does it without reservation.