Workplace Stress Under General Duty Clause?

Workplace stress may soon join them as a new hazard that OSHA will use the General Duty Clause to address. The agency issued a bulletin in November addressing workplace stress and mental health hazards in a way that appears to indicate it views them as under OSHA’s purview.

The regulated community generally supports OSHA’s concern for the mental health of the U.S. workforce, but OSHA hasn’t made a practice of regulating work-related mental health hazards. If it did, the agency would have to do so under the broad provisions of the General Duty Clause.

To prove such a violation, OSHA would have to show a recognized hazard of workplace stress specific to the worksite and that the:

  • Employer was aware of the recognized hazard (or should have been),
  • Employer had a “feasible or useful” means of addressing the hazard, and
  • Efforts the employer undertook to address the hazard were insufficient.

While OSHA may not be equipped to hand out citations for hazardous levels of workplace stress, this hazard is clearly on the agency’s radar. More activity from OSHA regarding this subject will likely come up in the near future.

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