If we look back to 1970, those working in the United States had very little when it came to safety and protection in the workplace. As a result, workers were facing high levels of illness, injury, and death. There was a view at the time that this was not good for businesses and employees. There was a view that it was a problem for the American economy. This led to the US Congress enacting the Occupational Safety and Health Act that same year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was set up as a result of the Act.
What is OSHA?
Set up in April 1971, OSHA is a federal agency that is a part of the US Department of Labour. OSHA’s goal is to ensure the safety of workers and the protection of their health. To improve health and safety in the workplace, the Act gives OSHA the task of defining and enforcing the standards that make this possible. In setting the rules, one of the ways it does this is through research and advice. It also draws upon the experience and knowledge of other interested parties. To ensure that everyone has a safe and healthy workplace, it does this in three ways.
How OSHA works
- Providing education and help to those who need it.
- Working in partnership with all parties who have an interest in workplace safety and health.
- Taking action to enforce standards and regulations.
Although it enforces the rules that make sure that workplaces are safe and free from hazards, OSHA provides advice and assistance to those who need it. It makes free a range of advice and guidance both in print and online that provides safety and health information. Its local specialists are also available to help provide specific information plus training. For employees, OSHA’s role means that they can now get the advice and assistance they need to ensure that their workplace is a safe place.
Who does it cover?
When it comes to coverage, OSHA applies to most workers and employers in the private sector. This might be through federal OSHA or an OSHA-approved state plan. For those who work in local, state or federal Government how it applies is different.
Federal OSHA does not cover employees working in state and local Government. However, 22 states have OSHA protection. The reason for this is that their state has an OSHA-approved state plan. As for federal agencies, they have to provide a safety and health program that is equal to the same standards as private employers.
While OSHA does cover a large proportion of the US workforce, there is a group of people it does not cover. It includes the self-employed, close family members of farm owners as well as those who work in areas where another federal agency manages workplace hazards.
What does OSHA mean?
The Act places a duty on employers to make sure that all workers have a safe workplace. They have to provide a work environment that does not have any known health and safety hazards. Equally, the act also gives workers a number of rights. The main ones being:
- Receive health and safety training in both a language they understand and in a way that they understand.
- Know that the machines that they are working on are safe.
- Have access to any safety gear they need in their job.
- Be protected from toxic chemicals in the workplace.
- Ask for an inspection by OSHA and to talk to the inspector.
- File a report about a work-related injury or illness and to see copies of the records.
While all workers have the right to a safe work environment, they also have responsibilities. These can include things like following any appropriate safety guidelines or an organization’s own health and safety rules. This is on top of reporting hazardous conditions in the workplace.
You can find more information on workers’ rights as well as their duties on the OSHA website.
The Benefits of OSHA
For the employee, OSHA is helping to make sure that they have a workplace that is safe for them. Information from OSHA shows that workers are now less likely to suffer injuries or illness than in the past. For example, the number of workplace deaths in American has fallen from about 38 a day in 1970 to 13 a day on 2014. Similarly, there has been a decrease in worker injuries and illness over the same period.
If employees can go home safely at the end of the day, OSHA is doing its job and helping everyone involved with workplace safety and health.