About OSHA

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President Nixon signs the OSHAct of 1970.

OSHA's Mission

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires that employers provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers.

The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training and assistance to workers and employers.

The mission of OSHA is to save lives, prevent injuries and protect the health of America’s workers. The OSH Act states that workers have the right to a safe workplace and that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide safe and healthy workplaces.

OSHA and its state partners have approximately 2100 inspectors, plus complaint discrimination investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standards writers, and other technical and support personnel spread over more than 200 offices throughout the country. This staff establishes protective standards, enforces those standards, and reaches out to employers and employees through technical assistance and consultation programs.

Some of the things OSHA does to carry out its mission are:

  • Developing job safety and health standards and enforcing them through worksite inspections
  • Providing training programs to increase knowledge about occupational safety and health

Today, although occupational safety has come a long way, too many employees are still being injured and killed on the job. Let's take a look at some recent statistics:

  • 5,190 workers were killed on the job in all sectors in 2016
  • An average of nearly 13 workers die every day
  • 2,857,400 recordable workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2016

Quiz Instructions

Each section in this course will include a quiz question at the bottom of the page. In the last section, you'll be able to check your score and retake the quiz if desired. Be sure to answer all questions or you won't see your score. To improve your score after you get results, just go back through the sections and change your answers. Do not refresh this page or you'll have to answer all questions again.

1. How many workplace fatalities in all sectors were recorded in 2016?

a. Over 4,500
b. Just under 5,200
c. At least 7,000
d. Between 6,000 and 6,500
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The four industrial groups covered by OSHA standards.

What are OSHA Standards

OSHA standards are rules that describe the methods that employers must use to protect their employees from hazards. There are OSHA standards for Construction work, Agriculture, Maritime operations, and General Industry, which are the standards that apply to most worksites. These standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to, require the use of certain safe practices and equipment, and require employers to monitor hazards and keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses.

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is an annual codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. It is divided into 50 "titles," of which is Title 29 assigned to the Department of Labor; therefore, the OSHA standards,called "Parts," are:

  • Part 1910 is assigned to General Industry. Includes topics such as hazard communication, walking working surfaces, PPE, powered platforms, hazardous materials, confined space safety, and noise exposure.
  • Part 1915 is assigned to Maritime. Includes topics such as welding, scaffolds, ladders, general working conditions, tools, rigging and material handling.
  • Part 1917 is assigned to Maritime Terminals. Includes topics such as terminal operations, cargo handling gear, first aid and lifesaving facilities, terminal facilities.
  • Part 1918 is assigned to Longshoring. Includes topics such as gangways, working surfaces, opening and closing hatches, cargo handling, vessel cargo handling gear, and gear certification.
  • Part 1926 is assigned to Construction. Includes topics such as exit routes, environmental controls, walking-working surfaces, ladders, fall protection, hazardous materials, PPE, and permit-required confined spaces.
  • Part 1928 is assigned to Agriculture. Includes topics such as safety for agricultural equipment, employee operating instruction, guarding farm field equipment, cotton gins, environmental controls, occupational health

The Rule-making Process. Before OSHA can issue a standard, it must go through an extensive and lengthy process that includes substantial public engagement, notice and comment periods. This is known as the OSHA Rulemaking Process.

2. Which Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) "Title" is assigned to the Department of Labor (DOL)?

a. Title 04
b. Title 10
c. Title 29
d. Title 50
OSHA's State Plan States

OSHA Coverage

The OSH Act covers most private sector employers and their workers, in addition to some public sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. Those jurisdictions include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands.

State Plans

The OSH Act encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs and precludes state enforcement of OSHA standards unless the state has an approved program. State Plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states rather than federal OSHA.

State-run safety and health programs must be at least as effective (ALAE) as the federal OSHA program. OSHA approves and monitors all state plans and provides as much as fifty percent of the funding for each program.

Currently there are 22 states in which state plans are approved for private-sector, and state and local government employees. An additional six states are approved for state and local government employees only.

3. OSHA does NOT have jurisdiction in _____.

a. Bermuda
b. Virgin Islands
c. Guam
d. California

Most Frequently Cited Standards

Copyright:benkrut / 123RF Stock Photo
Fall protection is at the top of OSHA's list.

Through the years, the same standards seem to be most frequently cited by OSHA. Their position on the list below varies from year to year, but they're all on the TOP 10 list each year. Visit OSHA's website on this topic. Just click on the image.

Notice the Fall Protection and Hazard Communication standards: these two standards are usually is at or near the top, so make sure you have an effective hazard communication program. It's smart safety management to give priority to each of the top 10 in your safety program. After all, the following statement is true:

"That which OSHA sees the most, is cited the most."

Look at the following list to get a sense of the most common workplace violations for 2017:

  1. 1926.501 - Fall Protection - Construction
  2. 1910.1200 - Hazard Communication - General Industry
  3. 1926.451 - Scaffolding - Construction
  4. 1910.134 - Respiratory Protection - General Industry
  5. 1910.147 - Lockout/Tagout - General Industry
  6. 1926.1053 - Ladders - Construction
  7. 1910.178 - Powered Industrial Trucks - General Industry
  8. 1910.212 - Machine Guarding - General Industry
  9. 1926.503 - Fall Protection - Training Requirements - Construction
  10. 1910.305 - Electrical- Wiring Methods - General Industry

4. Which of the following standards is at the top of OSHA's most frequently cited violations list?

a. Lockout/Tagout
b. Ergonomics
c. Fall Protection-Construction
d. Machine Guarding

OSHA Inspections

OSHA Field Operations Manual (FOM)

OSHA enforces standards through inspections. There are about 2,400 state and federal OSHA inspectors for over 7 million workplaces. At this rate, it would take about 100 years for OSHA to inspect every workplace once. Therefore, OSHA targets the most dangerous workplaces; industries with fatalities and serious injuries and construction.

The OSH Act authorizes OSHA compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) to conduct non-notice workplace inspections at reasonable times. The OSHA inspection 3-phase process consists of:

  1. Opening conference. The compliance officer will explain why OSHA selected the workplace for inspection and describe the scope of the inspection, walkaround procedures, employee representation and employee interviews.
  2. "Walkaround" inspection. The compliance officer and the representatives will walk through the portions of the workplace covered by the inspection.
  3. Closing conference with the employer. The compliance officer discusses possible courses of action an employer may take following an inspection, which could include an informal conference with OSHA or contesting citations and proposed penalties.

Results can take up to 6 months, after which OSHA may issue citations. These may include fines and will include dates by which hazard must be abated. See detailed requirements in the Field Operations Manual (click on image).

Different Types of OSHA Inspections

Unprogrammed Inspections

These inspections are scheduled in response to alleged hazardous working conditions identified at a specific worksite. This type of inspection responds to the following four priorities:

  1. imminent danger
  2. fatalities/catastrophes
  3. complaints/referrals
  4. programmed inspections

Programmed Inspections

Programmed Inspections are the most common type of inspection and are scheduled based upon objective or neutral selection criteria are programmed inspections. Inspections within the construction industry are scheduled from a list of construction worksites, not employers.

5. Which of the following OSHA inspections has the HIGHEST priority?

a. Programmed Inspections
b. Complaints/Referrals
c. Fatality/Catastrophy
d. Imminent Danger

On-site OSHA Inspections

OSHA inspectors, called Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs), are experienced, well-trained industrial hygienists and safety professionals whose goal is to assure compliance with OSHA requirements. OSHA conducts inspections without advance notice. Employers have the right to require compliance officers to obtain an inspection warrant before entering the worksite.

OR-OSHA and Federal OSHA inspection process are identical.

Preparation: Before conducting an inspection, OSHA compliance officers research the inspection history of a worksite using various data sources, review the operations and processes in use and the standards most likely to apply.

Presentation of credentials: The on-site inspection begins with the presentation of the compliance officer’s credentials, which include both a photograph and a serial number.

Opening Conference: During the opening conference, the compliance officer will explain why OSHA selected the workplace for inspection and describe the scope of the inspection, walkaround procedures, employee representation and employee interviews. The employer then selects a representative to accompany the compliance officer during the inspection.

Walkaround: Following the opening conference, the compliance officer and the representatives will walk through the portions of the workplace covered by the inspection, inspecting for hazards that could lead to employee injury or illness.

During the walkaround, compliance officers may point out some apparent violations that can be corrected immediately. While the law requires that these hazards must still be cited, prompt correction is a sign of good faith on the part of the employer.

Closing Conference: After the walkaround, the compliance officer holds a closing conference with the employer and the employee representatives to discuss the findings. The compliance officer discusses possible courses of action an employer may take following an inspection, which could include an informal conference with OSHA or contesting citations and proposed penalties.

Results: When an inspector finds violations of OSHA standards or serious hazards, OSHA may issue citations and fines. Citations describe OSHA requirements allegedly violated, list any proposed penalties and give a deadline for correcting the alleged hazards.

Appeals: When OSHA issues a citation, it also offers the employer an opportunity for an informal conference with the OSHA Area Director to discuss citations, penalties, abatement dates or any other information pertinent to the inspection. The agency and the employer may work out a settlement agreement to resolve the matter and to eliminate the hazard.

Employers have 15 working days after receipt of citations and proposed penalties to formally contest the alleged violations and/or penalties by sending a written notice to the Area Director.

6. Which of the following is a sign of "good faith" on the part of the employer during an OSHA inspection?

a. Promising to correct the hazard within 30 days
b. Immediate correction of the hazard
c. Insistence on a warrant
d. Nothing can be done to show "good faith"

Citations

The following general information on citations and penalties describes the types of violations and explains the actions the employer may take if they receive a citation as the result of an inspection. In settling a penalty, OSHA has a policy of reducing penalties for small employers and those acting in good faith. For more information on employer responsibilities, see OSHA Publication 3000, Employer Rights and Responsibilities.

Willful violation: A willful violation is cited when the employer intentionally and knowingly commits the violation. It is also cited when the employer commits a violation with plain indifference to the law.

Repeated violation: This violation is cited by OSHA when it is the same as a similar or previous violation.

Serious violation: OSHA cites a serious violation where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

Other-than-serious violation: An other-than-serious violation is cited when the violation has a direct relationship to safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

De Minimis: De minimis conditions are those where an employer has implemented a measure different from one specified in a standard, that has no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. These conditions do not result in citations or penalties.

Failure to Abate : A failure to abate violation exists when a previously cited hazardous condition, practice or non-complying equipment has not been brought into compliance since the prior inspection (i.e., the violation remains continuously uncorrected) and is discovered at a later inspection.

7. OSHA cites a _____ violation where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

a. formal
b. imminent danger
c. serious
d. other-than-serious

Penalties

OSHA inspectors cite violation.

The penalties that OSHA assesses are based on the type of violation. In settling a penalty, OSHA has a policy of reducing penalties for small employers and those acting in good faith. For serious violations, OSHA may also reduce the proposed penalty based on the gravity of the alleged violation. No good faith adjustment will be made for alleged willful violations. Below are the penalty amounts adjusted for inflation as of January 13, 2017:

Serious and other-than-serious violations:" OSHA may propose penalties of up to $12,675 for each serious, other than serious, and repeated violation.

Failure to abate. When the employer fails to abate a violation, a maximum of $12,675 may be proposed for per day the violation remains unabated beyond the abatement date. Generally there is a 30-day maximum limit.

Willful or repeated violations: OSHA may propose penalties of up to $126,749 for each willful or repeated violation.

OSHA cites employers, not employees: It's important to know that the OSHA Act does not provide for the issuance of citations or the proposal of penalties against employees. Employers are responsible for employee compliance with the standards.

Penalty Adjustments: OSHA may apply penalty adjustments that vary depending upon the employer's size (maximum number of employees), good faith, and the history of previous violations. Adjustments based on the number of employees may be applied as follows:

  • 70 percent for employers with 1-10 employees
  • 60 percent for employers with 11-25 workers
  • 30 percent for employers with 26-100 workers
  • 10 percent for employers with 101-250 workers

8. Which one of the following violations will NOT result in a possible "good faith" adjustment in penalty?

a. De Minimis violation.
b. Serious violation
c. Other-than-serious violation
d. Willful violation

OSHA Resources

help

Over the years, OSHA has developed many helpful resources for employers. OSHA's website has a lot of safety and health information and links to resources that can help you.

For example, from the Home Page, you can:

  • Find information in Spanish from the OSHA en Español page;
  • Locate Fact Sheets and QuickCards by going to OSHA's Publications page;
    • OSHA Fact Sheets provide basic background information on safety and health hazards; and
    • QuickCards are small, laminated cards that provide brief, plain language safety and health information for workers. For example, the image to the right shows part of a QuickCard for Aerial Lift Fall Protection.

You can contact OSHA by calling or visiting your local area or regional office for safety and health information or to discuss filing a complaint. Compliance Assistance Specialists in the area offices conduct many training sessions and have training materials and information that can be useful.

Open the following Safety and Health Resources handout to get valuable links to many more resources from NIOSH, universities, professional organizations, and unions.

You can also learn more about the OSHA website by opening the Navigating the OSHA Website handout.

9. Who would you contact to get help with safety training?

a. Compliance Assistance Specialist (CAS)
b. Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO)
c. Safety and Health Compliance Officer (SHCO)
d. Consultation and Education Technician (CET)

OSHA On-Site Consultation

OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. In FY 2015, responding to requests from small employers looking to create or improve their injury and illness prevention programs, OSHA's On-site Consultation Program conducted approximately 28,000 visits to small business worksites covering over 1.4 million workers across the nation.

On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.

Because consultation is a voluntary activity, you must request it. The consultant will discuss your specific needs with you and set up a visit date based on the priority assigned to your request, your work schedule, and the time needed for the consultant to adequately prepare to serve you.

  • The consultant will start with an opening conference with you before beginning the walk through.
  • The consultant will study your entire workplace, pointing out safety or health risks (some which may not have an applicable OSHA standard).
  • After the walk-through, the consultant will review the findings with you before leaving.
  • Finally, the consultant will send you a detailed written report explaining the findings and confirming any abatement periods agreed upon. They may also contact you from time to time to check your progress.

10. Which of the following is TRUE regarding OSHA on-site consultations?

a. They are the result of an OSHA letter
b. They are confidential
c. They will result in an OSHA Inspection
d. They are mandatory

Partnering with OSHA

Image of OSHA Alliance participant

OSHA Alliance Program: Through the OSHA Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. These groups include unions, consulates, trade or professional organizations, businesses, faith- and community-based organizations, and educational institutions. OSHA and the groups work together to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, share information with workers and employers, and educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

Alliance Program participants do not receive exemptions from OSHA inspections or any other enforcement benefits.

Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. The On-site Consultation Program's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) recognizes small business employers who operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program.

Acceptance of your worksite into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that singles you out among your business peers as a model for worksite safety and health. Upon receiving SHARP recognition, OSHA exempts the worksite from OSHA programmed inspections during the period that the SHARP certification is valid.

OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program. The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) recognize employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries.

To participate, employers must apply to OSHA and undergo a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals. Union support is required for applicants represented by a bargaining unit.

VPP participants are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.

11. Which of the following OSHA programs recognizes small employers for exemplary safety programs?

a. OSHA Consultation and Training Service (OCTS)
b. OSHA Alliance Program (OAP)
c. Safety and Health Recognition Program (SHARP)
d. Voluntary Prevention Program (VPP)

Ways to Report Safety Hazards

rf123 photo

The first action to report a safety hazard should be to contact the employer's safety team leader, supervisor, manager, safety committee, etc. While anyone who knows about a workplace safety or health hazard may report unsafe conditions to OSHA, it’s a good practice to try to correct the hazard and prevent further exposure before involving OSHA.

  • Contact. Contact the team leader, supervisor, manager, safety committee, etc.
  • Phone. Call the Regional or Local OSHA office or 1-800-321-OSHA.
  • Fax or Mail. Obtain the complaint form online or from the local or regional OSHA office.
  • In Person. Visit the local OSHA office.
  • Online. File complaints using OSHA's Online Form.

How OSHA Responds to Complaints

Image of OSHA Alliance participant

OSHA evaluates each complaint to determine how it can be handled best--an off-site investigation or an on-site inspection. Workers who would like an on-site inspection must submit a written request. Workers who complain have the right to have their names withheld from their employers, and OSHA will not reveal this information. At least one of the following eight criteria must be met for OSHA to conduct an on-site inspection:

  • A written, signed complaint by a current employee or employee representative with enough detail to enable OSHA to determine that a violation or danger likely exists that threatens physical harm or that an imminent danger exists;
  • An allegation that physical harm has occurred as a result of the hazard and that it still exists;
  • A report of an imminent danger;
  • A complaint about a company in an industry covered by one of OSHA's local or national emphasis programs or a hazard targeted by one of these programs;
  • Inadequate response from an employer who has received information on the hazard through a phone/fax investigation;
  • A complaint against an employer with a past history of egregious, willful or failure-to-abate OSHA citations within the past three years;
  • Referral from a whistle blower investigator; or
  • Complaint at a facility scheduled for or already undergoing an OSHA inspection.

12. Which of the following criteria must be met before on-site OSHA inspection will occur as a result of a complaint?

a. A report of an imminent danger
b. Complaint of stressful work schedules
c. Unspecified employer response to employee complaints
d. Past history of an OSHA inspection

Check your Work

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