Understanding the OSHA General Duty Clause

Published: McLane Middleton's Employment Law Business Guide
May 23, 2023

While employers in industries like construction and manufacturing are likely well-versed in specific Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations, an often overlooked regulation called the General Duty Clause applies to every employer.

Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the “General Duty Clause”) requires an employer to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards that may result in death or serious physical harm to its employees.  Violations include fines, legal liability, and reputational damage. To cite an employer for a General Duty Clause violation, OSHA must show:

  • The employer failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard that was recognized or should have been recognized by the employer;
  • The hazard was causing or was likely to cause death or serious physical harm; and
  • There was a feasible and useful method to correct the hazard.

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