What Is the OSHA General Duty Clause?

What Is the OSHA General Duty Clause?

In every workplace, regardless of industry, there are potential hazards – from machinery in manufacturing plants to the everyday risks in office settings. With so many potential hazards around us, there exists a safety net designed to protect workers across all industries. In NC, there is Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s General Duty Clause.

But what exactly is it, and what does the general duty clause require employers to do? Whether you are an employer or an employee, you need to know the most frequently cited OSHA violations in order to ensure that your workplace has safety measures that address these hazards.


Let’s discuss and define the general duty clause first:

OSHA General Duty Clause

The OSHA General Duty Clause, also known as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration General Duty Clause, is a critical component of workplace safety regulations. As an employer, you are required to provide a safe and healthy working environment for your employees, addressing known hazards that could cause serious harm or death.

Under the General Duty Clause, employers are responsible for identifying and taking reasonable steps to eliminate or minimize these hazards by implementing safety protocols, providing necessary training, and ensuring that appropriate protective equipment is available and used correctly.

It isn’t enough to simply comply with specific OSHA standards; most especially in high-risk construction work, employers must also proactively identify and address any potential hazards that aren’t covered by those standards but are still recognized hazards in their industry. Failure to comply with the General Duty Clause can result in serious consequences, including fines and penalties.

Key Elements of the OSHA General Duty Clause

The General Duty Clause, as outlined in Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that may cause serious harm or death to employees. This clause serves as a catch-all provision when there are no specific OSHA standards applicable to a particular hazard.

The key elements of the General Duty Clause include the existence of a recognized hazard, the employer’s knowledge of the hazard, the hazard’s potential to cause serious harm or death, and feasible means to eliminate or reduce the hazard.

Employers must identify and address known hazards that should be known in their industry. This includes conducting regular hazard assessments, implementing appropriate control measures, providing necessary training, and monitoring the effectiveness of safety programs.

Enforcement of the OSHA General Duty Clause

The OSHA General Duty Clause is enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency responsible for ensuring safe and healthy working conditions for employees.

  • Inspections: OSHA conducts inspections to assess compliance with the General Duty Clause and other safety standards. During inspections, OSHA inspectors evaluate the workplace for potential hazards and violations of the General Duty Clause.
  • Enforcement: OSHA’s enforcement of the General Duty Clause holds employers accountable for providing a safe work environment. Employers have a legal obligation to identify and address workplace hazards, and OSHA’s enforcement efforts help to ensure that this obligation is met.
  • Violation: If a violation is found, OSHA may issue citations and penalties to employers. These penalties can range from fines to more severe consequences, such as shutdowns or criminal charges.

Importance of Compliance With the OSHA General Duty Clause

Compliance with the OSHA General Duty Clause ensures workplace safety and protects the well-being of employees. Complying with this clause involves taking proactive measures to prevent workplace hazards and create a safe working environment.

  • It helps to prevent accidents and injuries. By identifying and addressing potential and known hazards, you can reduce the risk of accidents and promote a culture of safety in the workplace.
  • It helps to avoid legal consequences. Failure to comply can result in penalties, citations, and even litigation. By following the guidelines set forth by the clause, you can demonstrate your commitment to maintaining a safe working environment and mitigate the risk of legal action.
  • Enhances employee morale and productivity. When employees feel safe and protected in their workplace, they’re more likely to be engaged, motivated, and productive. Prioritizing workplace safety creates a positive work environment that fosters employee satisfaction and loyalty.



Employers should have an understanding of and comply with the OSHA General Duty Clause. This clause serves as a tool to guarantee workplace safety, as it requires employers to provide a hazard-free environment.

Enforcing the General Duty Clause, OSHA is aiming to protect workers from recognized hazards that may cause injury or illness. Compliance with this clause promotes a safe work environment and helps you avoid penalties and legal consequences for non-compliance.


I am a committed and seasoned content creator with expertise in the realms of technology, marketing, and WordPress. My initial foray into the world of WordPress occurred during my time at WebFactory Ltd, and my involvement in this field continues to grow. Armed with a solid background in electrical engineering and IT, coupled with a fervor for making technology accessible to the masses, my goal is to connect intricate technical ideas with approachable and captivating content.

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