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Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Last updated: November 24, 2021

What Does Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Mean?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a regulatory agency of the US Department of Labor, established in 1971. OSHA directs national occupational health and safety compliance initiatives in addition to helping businesses protect their workers and reduce the number of workplace deaths, injuries, and illnesses.

OSHA's coverage extends to most private and public sector employers and their workers over a wide range of industries. OSHA operates in all 50 US states as well as US territories and jurisdictions such as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Safeopedia Explains Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

On December 29, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Health and Safety Act into law. The Act aimed to curb workplace injury and fatality rates, which averaged at 2.5 million injured workers and 14,000 worker deaths annually.

OSHA, which was established as a direct result of the Act, was able to cut the fatality rate by more than half and significantly reduce the rate of injuries and illnesses, especially in the textile and excavation industries.

OSHA’s Mission and Operation

OSHA’s mission is to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.

OSHA deals with education, training, and enforcement of safety standards and requirements. The standards and requirements are based on workplace research and input from technical experts, employers, unions, and other stakeholders.

OSHA uses the following strategies:

  • Enforcement: Making sure OSHA regulations are followed
  • Assistance: Outreach training to employers and employees
  • Cooperation: Partnerships and alliances through voluntary programs

Enforcing Compliance

OSHA is tasked with enforcing safety and health in the workplace and investigating probable causes for work-related sickness, injuries, and deaths. It can issue penalties and fines for violation of safety codes.

Aligning with OSHA’s guidelines can benefit businesses by:

  • Preventing illness, injury and death
  • Reducing financial liabilities for both employers and employees
  • Improving workplace morale by evincing genuine interest in the health and safety of employees
  • Enhancing brand image and reputation

Complying with OSHA Requirements

Employers and employees are required to take specific actions to comply with OSHA’s safety standards.

Employers should:

  • Inspect the workplace for potential hazards and work on minimizing or eliminating hazards
  • Keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses
  • Provide training to recognize hazards and encourage the use of safety equipment

Employees should:

  • Comply with OSHA standards and follow regulations
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment
  • Report hazardous work conditions and job-related illness or injuries
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