Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was signed into law on December 29, 1970, to ensure that all American workers have safe and healthy working conditions. To achieve that goal, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created shortly after. OSHA issues standards and rules for the maintenance of safe workplace conditions and regulates tools, equipment, facilities, and processes to make sure that employers are providing employees with a safe and healthy work environment. OSHA also inspects workplaces to make sure employers are complying with the standards.

In general, the OSH Act applies to employers great and small, however some of OSHA’s standards and regulations may give exemptions to certain small employers or to certain industries that OSHA has determined are less likely to experience on-the-job hazards. Since the agency was created, workplace fatalities as well as occupational injury and illness rates have declined drastically.

OSHA shares responsibility for protecting workplace safety and health with states and territories that run their own OSHA-approved workplace safety and health programs. In addition to rulemaking, inspection, and enforcement activities to prevent and reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths, OSHA is involved in consulting, forming, partnerships with employers, and outreach. All of these programs and policies are designed to improve the safety and health of the American workforce.

There are those that erroneously think that the OSH Act only regulates workplace safety in factories and requires employers who have hazardous equipment to comply with safety standards. But the arms of OSHA reach much farther. The employer’s workplace doesn’t even have to employ workers on an assembly line or manufacture goods to be visited by OSHA. The OSH Act also protects employees in offices, medical facilities, laboratories, restaurants, and many other places.

And OSHA regulates more than just safety hazards in the workplace. Remember that the "H" in OSHA stands for health. That means that in addition to providing a safe workplace for employees, employers also must be on the lookout to protect workers’ health. Again, OSHA was founded to assure workers of both safe and healthy working conditions. The health issues that OSHA monitors, however, are often overlooked. These health issues include indoor air quality and noise level, ergonomics, workplace stress, and workplace violence.