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Philadelphia Workplace Safety Regulations [2024]

Philadelphia Workplace Safety Regulations [2024]

In Philadelphia, workplace safety laws are governed by a combination of federal regulations, primarily enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and state-specific regulations. 

Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The cornerstone of workplace safety in Pennsylvania, as in all states, is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), administered by OSHA. The OSH Act requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm and includes the following stipulations:

  • A General Duty Clause: Employers must maintain a safe working environment free of serious recognized hazards. This clause is a broad mandate for maintaining workplace safety even in areas not explicitly covered by OSHA standards.
  • Specific Standards: OSHA sets specific standards for various industries, including construction, maritime, agriculture, and general industry. These standards cover exposure to toxic chemicals, fall protection, electrical safety, machinery safety, and more.
  • Mandatory Recordkeeping: Employers with over ten employees must record work-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA must learn of certain severe injuries such as amputations, losses of an eye, and hospitalizations, within 24 hours. Fatalities must be reported within 8 hours.
  • Training Requirements: Employers must provide safety training in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand.

Pennsylvania-Specific Workplace Safety Laws

In addition to federal regulations, Pennsylvania has the General Safety Law, No. 174, P.L. 654, which protects workers by ensuring that all establishments adhere to specific safety standards. Here is an overview of its essential aspects.

Scope and Coverage

The General Safety Law applies to all public and private workplaces in Pennsylvania, covering a wide range of industries and occupations. This includes factories, shops, buildings, manufacturing plants, and any establishment employing manual labor.  

Employer Responsibilities

  • Safety of Machinery and Equipment: Employers must ensure that all machinery and equipment are safely constructed, maintained, and operated. This includes providing appropriate safeguards to prevent accidents and injuries.
  • Safe Workplace Conditions: Employers are required to maintain a safe working environment, which includes proper ventilation, lighting, and sanitation. Workplaces must be free from hazards that could cause injury or harm to employees.
  • Emergency Procedures: Employers must establish and maintain emergency procedures to handle accidents and hazardous situations. This includes ensuring that fire exits are accessible and that fire suppression equipment is available and functional.
  • Hazardous Substances: Employers must control exposure to dangerous substances and ensure that workers are informed about the associated risks. Proper labeling and storage of hazardous materials are required.

Safety Inspections

The law mandates regular safety inspections by designated safety officers. These inspections are intended to identify potential hazards and ensure compliance with safety standards. Employers must rectify any identified hazards within a specified timeframe.

Accident Reporting

Employers are required to report any workplace accidents that result in injury or death to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. Investigations are then conducted, and measures are taken to prevent future occurrences.

Pennsylvania Worker and Community Right to Know Act

This act requires employers to provide information to employees and the community about hazardous substances in the workplace.

  • Hazardous Substance Inventory: Employers must compile an inventory of all hazardous substances present in the workplace. This inventory must be updated regularly and accessible to employees and their representatives.
  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS): Employers are required to maintain Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each hazardous substance. MSDSs provide detailed information about the properties, health hazards, safe handling, and emergency procedures related to the substance.
  • Labeling: Containers of hazardous substances must be properly labeled with the identity of the substance, appropriate hazard warnings, and the name and address of the manufacturer or importer.
  • Employee Training: Employers must provide training and education to employees regarding the hazardous substances they may be exposed to in the workplace. Training should cover proper handling procedures, emergency response, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Enforcement and Penalties

OSHA conducts regular inspections of workplaces in Pennsylvania to ensure compliance with federal safety standards. These inspections may be random or based on specific criteria, such as industry hazard levels or past compliance history.

  • Complaint Investigations: Employees can file complaints with OSHA if they believe their workplace is unsafe. OSHA is required to investigate these complaints, often leading to targeted inspections.
  • Accident Investigations: OSHA investigates serious workplace accidents, especially those resulting in fatalities or severe injuries.

State Enforcement

Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry enforces OSHA and state-specific safety laws. State safety inspectors conduct inspections to ensure compliance, which may be routine or triggered by complaints or accidents.


OSHA categorizes violations into several types, each with corresponding penalties. Other-than-serious violations and serious violations, where there is a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm, can result in fines of up to $15,625 per violation. 

Willful or repeated violations, where an employer knowingly fails to comply with legal requirements or acts with plain indifference to employee safety, carry the most severe penalties, with fines up to $156,259 per violation and potential criminal charges if a worker’s death occurs. 

When an employer does not correct a cited hazard within the required timeframe, daily penalties of up to $15,625 will be imposed until the issue is resolved.

A welder in a potentially dangerous environment

Who Benefits from Philadelphia Workplace Safety Regulations?

Philadelphia’s workplace safety regulations primarily benefit employees, as these measures protect them from potential hazards and reduce the risk of injuries and illnesses, thereby ensuring their health and well-being. Additionally, employers benefit significantly from these regulations; a safe work environment leads to higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lower healthcare and workers’ compensation costs. Moreover, compliance with safety regulations enhances the company’s reputation and can lead to increased employee morale and retention. 

Employee Rights

Employees can report unsafe conditions or violations to OSHA or the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry without fear of retaliation. This includes the right to request an OSHA inspection if they believe there are hazardous conditions in their workplace. Additionally, employees can also access records of work-related injuries and illnesses and obtain information about hazardous substances they may be exposed to. These protections empower Pennsylvania workers to take an active role in maintaining their safety and health on the job.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or illness on the job, you have the right to receive workers’ compensation, including medical treatment and wage-loss benefits. Promptly report the incident to your employer to initiate the claims process. If there are disputes about benefits, you can seek assistance from an experienced Philadelphia work injury attorney who will ensure that you receive the necessary support and compensation you deserve.