Your OSHA Sidekick

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created by Congress to regulate and ensure that working conditions in the United States are safe and healthy. Since its inception in 1971, OSHA has helped employers identify and eliminate or control workplace hazards by creating and enforcing workplace health and safety standards.

OSHA’s Focus
OSHA’s efforts are concentrated on two groups: workers and employers. Partnering with workers and responding to their concerns, OSHA has been continually instituting protections of worker rights, such as by ensuring access to medical and exposure records in 1980, establishing worker “right to know” of hazardous chemicals in the workplace in 1983, and demanding employers pay for personal protective equipment in 2007.

Employers are held primarily responsible for identifying and eliminating workplace hazards, such as the harmful chemicals that must be labeled in accordance with the hazard communication standards. When employers fail to meet their duties, or when they have general health and safety concerns, workers are able to file a complaint with OSHA, without fear of retaliation, and OSHA inspects and identifies violations and hazards, and then issues citations and ensures compliance.

Local and Regional Offices
Encouraged by the original law, 22 states have created and operated their own workplace health and safety programs that are at least as rigorous as OSHA’s.  Five other states have plans that protect their public employees; the remaining workers are directly protected by OSHA personnel. All workers may find their local and regional offices at the main OSHA.gov website.

OSHA.gov
Information about OSHA is readily available on its website, which has nine tabs just under the banner that help workers find the information they need to ensure their workplaces remain safe.

The Home tab provides links to the latest OSHA news, local offices throughout the United States and “top links,” including whistleblower protection for workers who report employer violations.

Workers find information about their rights under this tab, as well as OSHA safety requirements broken out by industry, and links explaining how workers may request an OSHA workplace inspection.

The Regulations tab provides workers with links to the full text of all workplace safety laws and regulations as well as an explanation of how OSHA makes its rules.

Under the Enforcement tab, information on how OSHA ensures employers keep workplaces safe is available; from here, workers can also view the top 10 violated standards as well as the highest penalties paid by violators.

The Data & Statistics tab has links to the most commonly accessed statistics, such as those on workplace injuries and fatalities. Workers are able to search inspections by establishment and by industry group in addition to particular fatality and catastrophe investigations.

Training provides guidance, courses and materials to help employers to properly train employees. Workers can also research the various training programs available.

OSHA creates specific Publications for nearly every occupation and hazard, and workers in specialized industries, such as nail salons and spirometry, can find detailed compliance guides to keep them safe.

Newsroom has links for workers to keep abreast of the latest OHSA news, fact sheets and its bi-monthly publication, Quick Takes.

The Small Business tab holds links to easy-to-follow guides and tools, as well as a Quick Start tool specifically designed to help small businesses and their workers.

OSHA was created to promote and ensure the health, safety and general well being of the workforce. Workers should feel free to take advantage of OSHA’s services, information and expertise. Workers are encouraged to explore all of the options available to them through OSHA, and OSHA.gov is an excellent place to start.