Health and Safety Regulations: OSHA

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Health and safety regulations are enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. Explore the definition and mission of OSHA and learn who is subject to it, employer responsibilities, employee rights, and an inspection example. Updated: 10/01/2021

OSHA: Definition and Mission

Owen works for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as an inspector. OSHA was established pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was passed by Congress in 1970. The goal of the Act is to make sure that workers have the most safe and healthy work conditions possible. Many states also run their own OSHA programs, but we'll keep our discussion mostly to the federal program.

OSHA regulates workplace safety and health by issuing safety and health standards. Owen and other OSHA employees will undertake inspections and investigations to make sure that employers are complying with the standards.

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  • 0:02 OSHA: Definition and Mission
  • 0:45 Who's Subject to OSHA?
  • 1:50 Employer Responsibilities
  • 3:20 Employee Rights
  • 4:18 Inspection Example
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
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Who's Subject to OSHA

OSHA applies to most private sector employers and federal agencies. Regulations are implemented either directly through federal OSHA or through a state-run OSHA plan that has been approved by OSHA. State plans are run by the state instead of the federal government. States can choose to develop plans for private sector and state and local government agencies or just a plan for the government employees. If a state only provides a plan for government agencies, then private sector employers remain under federal OSHA jurisdiction.

OSHA doesn't cover every employer and worker. Let's look at some examples:

  • Self-employed people
  • Employees of a farm who are immediate family of a farmer employer
  • Any workplace hazard that is regulated by another agency of the federal government is not covered by OSHA.
    • For example, miners are protected by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration regulates air travel hazards.

Employer Responsibilities

OSHA mandates a plethora of employer responsibilities. According to OSHA:

  • Employers must provide a safe workplace without serious hazards.
  • Employers must follow all safety and health standards implemented by OSHA.
  • Employers must discover and correct safety and health problems.
  • Employers must try to eliminate or reduce a hazard rather than relying on protective equipment. For example, they must use a safer cleaning chemical instead of one that requires protective clothing if its use is feasible.
  • Employees must be informed and trained on chemical hazards. Employers must use such tools as training, labels, color-coded systems and chemical information sheets to inform its employees of the safety and health hazards.
  • Employers must provide safety training in a way employees can understand.
  • Employers must perform testing of facilities and medical testing of workers as required by OSHA standards.
  • Employers have to keep accurate records of work illnesses and injuries.
  • Employers must provide protective equipment to employees at no cost.
  • Employers must publicly post information required to be displayed by OSHA for employees to see and read.
  • Employers cannot retaliate or discriminate against workers for asserting their rights under OSHA, including reporting an injury or illness.

Employee Rights

OSHA not only imposes duties on employers but also bestows rights on employees. According to OSHA:

  • Employees should have working conditions that do not present a serious risk of harm.
  • Employees have a right to training and information about hazards, OSHA standards and means to prevent harm.
  • Employees have a right to receive information about workplace injuries, illnesses, tests conducted on facilities and their work-related medical records.
  • Employees have a right to participate in OSHA inspections and speak with inspectors in private.
  • Employees have a right to file a confidential complaint for an inspection.
  • Employees have a right to file a complaint if they have been retaliated or discriminated against for asserting any of their rights under OSHA, including requesting an inspection or acting as a whistleblower.

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