Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 led to the creation of the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor that sets and enforces occupational safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training, outreach and education to workers and employers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act also led to the creation of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an agency that focuses on researching and making recommendations on occupational safety and health standards. NIOSH, however, is not under the Department of Labor. It is part of the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) within the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
OSHA covers employers and employees through OSHA federal regulations or through OSHA-approved state programs. OSHA does not cover the self-employed, immediate family members of farm employers that do not hire outside employees, and workers who fall under the protection of another federal agency (e.g. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, Mine Safety and Health Administration).
Workers may file a complaint with OSHA and request to have their workplace inspected if they believe their employer has violated OSHA standards and their working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful. They may file their complaint online or by mail, telephone or fax. A complainant can ask OSHA to keep their identity confidential. Workers and their representatives have the right to participate in the inspection, talk with the OSHA inspector in private, and join the inspector and employer during meetings before and after the inspection.
Workers have the right to:
- Request OSHA for a workplace inspection
- Receive information and training about workplace hazards, preventive methods, and the OSHA standards and requirements applicable to their workplace
- Observe monitoring procedures and view the test results
- Access employee exposure and medical records
- Use their OSHA rights without discrimination, retaliation or punishment by the employer
Employers must comply with OSHA standards that protect employees from hazards. There are OSHA standards that cover construction, maritime and general industry. Examples of OSHA standards include permissible exposure limits to chemicals, asbestos exposure prevention, infectious disease prevention, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), putting guards on machines, providing training for certain risky jobs, and providing fall protection.
The General Duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide a working environment that is free from serious recognized hazards. Employers must comply with all OSHA occupational safety and health standards.
OSHA has significantly reduced the number of employer-negligence victims since its inception. It has cut down rates of work-related injuries and illnesses; brown lung disease, for example, has been virtually eliminated in the textile industry.
A Safer Work Environment
Throughout the years, the regulation and enforcement of OSHA standards have promoted occupational safety for working Americans and has resulted in improved productivity and higher quality work environments. Workplace safety and health regulations are not only greatly beneficial for employees, but employers as well. An unsafe and unhealthy work environment only leads to lost production, costly medical expenses and disability compensation, employee distrust and discontent, and loss of human resources for the employer. Occupational safety standards not only protect the health of workers, but their family members, employers, suppliers, customers, nearby communities and other individuals that are impacted by the workplace environment.
For more information, visit the official OSHA website: www.osha.gov.
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