The Occupational Safety and Health Administration keeps workplaces and surrounding communities safer by creating and implementing safety standards. OSHA serves many purposes related to workplace health and safety in the United States. Understanding and complying with OSHA standards is essential for any U.S. job site.
What Is OSHA?
OSHA is an administration of the federal government under the Department of Labor. Congress established OSHA in 1971 as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA creates and enforces uniform, comprehensive standards for workplace safety. The program’s administrators report directly to the United States Secretary of Labor.
OSHA History and Impact
Since Congress established OSHA, the administration has made workplaces much safer than they once were. An estimated 14,000 workers died on the job in 1970, which fell to 4,340 by 2009 with almost double the number of working Americans. Rates of reported workplace injuries and illnesses have also reduced in that period.
What Is the Purpose of OSHA?
The administration’s mission is to create safe, healthy working conditions, preventing workplace accidents through education, training and regulated standards. The organization’s central purpose is to protect working people throughout the United States from job-related injury and death.
What Are OSHA’s Responsibilities?
OSHA’s responsibilities are multifaceted. As a large, broad-scope organization, OSHA accomplishes all of the following.
- Setting standards: OSHA establishes mandatory safety standards across different types of work sites.
- Enforcing standards: After establishing guidelines, OSHA enforces them through inspections, assistance programs and imposing citations or penalties.
- Establishing rights: OSHA also defines employee and employer rights, which are crucial for legal actions.
- Performing research: Another fundamental function of OSHA is to conduct research. Through research, OSHA finds new ways to minimize or handle workplace hazards.
- Keeping records: OSHA tracks workplace injuries, deaths and illnesses.
- Conducting training: OSHA helps educate employers and employees on its safety requirements, including comprehensive training programs.
Is OSHA Good or Bad?
Before Congress established OSHA, the United States had no standardized employee protection. Now, American workers can expect a safe and healthy work environment. OSHA grants employees the following rights.
- File complaints: Employees can file complaints with OSHA if their employers violate their rights. An employer who allows the work environment to be unsafe, unclean or otherwise unhealthy could be subject to an OSHA complaint. When this happens, OSHA inspects workplaces for evidence and takes action.
- Report workplace injuries: Per OSHA standards, employers must have a process in place for their workers to report on-the-job injuries. If an employer fails to establish a process for reporting or tries to impede the process, the employee can report their injury to OSHA.
- No discrimination or retaliation: For employees to feel secure when reporting hazards or injuries, OSHA also protects employees from employer retaliation or discrimination after filing a complaint. In other words, an employer cannot fire or mistreat an employee because they’ve reached out to OSHA.
How Does OSHA Protect Employees?
The standards and protections set by OSHA help keep employees safe, and since over 150 million people work every day in the United States, this saves many lives each year. OSHA’s mandatory safety standards prevent many injuries from happening in the first place. In addition, OSHA’s reporting procedures offer protection to employees who face hazards or experience injuries at work.
Can OSHA Fine an Employee?
OSHA enforces safety standards in workplaces, but the burden of creating a safe environment falls on employers, not employees. OSHA will not fine or penalize employees for workplace hazards or job site safety violations. However, the agency issues citations, penalties and fines to companies that fail to comply with its standards.
Citations act as warnings. Repeat citations end up on a company’s safety record, which is public on OSHA’s website. This information helps employees make informed decisions about where to work. An employee may seek to work with a company with few or no listed safety violations. Depending on its severity, each offense has a minimum and maximum fine amount. Collected fines go to the U.S. Treasury general fund.
Who Does OSHA Protect?
OSHA provides far-reaching protection for many working Americans. The administration covers individuals in one of the following categories.
- Private-sector workers: OSHA covers private-sector employees in all 50 states, as well as other U.S. jurisdictions. It does so through either federal or state-level plans.
- State and local government employees: While federal OSHA provisions don’t cover state and local government employees, 22 states have an OSHA-approved state plan. Another six have plans for public-sector workers.
- Federal government employees: OSHA holds federal agencies to the same standards as private-sector employers. OSHA monitors safety standards and responds to complaints, but does not issue fines to federal agencies. An example of a federal agency within OSHA’s jurisdiction is the United States Postal Service.
Who Does OSHA Not Protect?
It’s essential to remember OSHA’s limitations. Some people do not have OSHA’s protection, including workers in the following circumstances.
- Self-employed: OSHA has no authority over self-employed workers, and its protection does not extend to them. For instance, OSHA cannot force a self-employed construction worker to abide by construction site safety standards. Additionally, contracted freelancers cannot issue complaints with OSHA as they do not technically have employers.
- Immediate family members of farm employees: OSHA also excludes protection of farm employee immediate family members if the farm does not have outside employees.
- Workers protected by another federal agency: Employees in specific occupations have protections under other federal agencies, so OSHA does not cover them. For example, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, under the U.S. Department of Labor, protects miners. Similarly, the Federal Aviation Administration, under the Department of Transportation, protects those in the aviation field.
Take OSHA Safety Courses With Hazmat School
Thanks to OSHA safety standards and enforcements, employers must meet high standards for hazard reduction. The administration’s work since its 1971 inception has made workplaces safer for everyone. Employers and employees in any field must seek all necessary OSHA training for compliance liability reasons and to minimize injury risks.
If you need OSHA safety courses, consider Hazmat School. We offer a wide range of OSHA training at competitive prices, including courses on back injury prevention, defensive driving, asbestos awareness, sexual harassment and several other topics. Our experienced remote instructors are available 24/7 to help you understand training materials. Earn OSHA compliance and create a safe, functional, effective workplace. To learn more about our OSHA training courses, contact Hazmat School today.