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According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, your employer must maintain a workplace free from hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm under the General Duty Clause. In return, as an employee, you must comply with the rules, regulations and orders issued to protect your safety and health at work. 

Though your employer is legally required to provide a safe and healthy workplace, certain hazards may still remain. If your employer fails to rectify the situation and implement measures to protect your health and safety, OSHA can issue a citation under the General Duty Clause. 

Criteria for a citation 

OSHA can only cite your employer under the General Duty Clause if these conditions are present: 

  • There is a hazard. 
  • The hazard is recognizable. 
  • There is a high likelihood of injury or death because of the hazard. 

For OSHA to issue a citation, your employer must also be able to correct the hazard. 

Examples of violations 

There are many ways your employer can violate the General Duty Clause and create an unsafe workplace. For example, work requiring you to repeatedly lift boxes above shoulder height or making you consistently twist your body while shifting a load could violate it because of the chance for muscle and joint injuries. 

According to this clause, your employer must ensure you have a way to summon emergency medical assistance when you work alone. It is also a violation if your employer stores highly reactive chemicals improperly within your workspace or if your job involves operating a pipe threading machine that does not have an automatic shutoff button. 

To protect your interests, bring any workplace hazards to the attention of management as soon as possible. If management is slow to react to these hazards and implement precautions, identify methods for reducing the hazard or the risk of injury and inform your direct supervisor of your ideas.