Course 600 - Introduction to Occupational Safety and Health

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

About OSHA

OSHA's Mission

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.


OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA's administrator answers to the Secretary of Labor, who is a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States. See the current OSHA Organizational Chart.

OSHA Coverage

The OSH Act covers most private sector employers and their workers, and 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 as defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

What is OSHA's Focus?

Fall Protection
Lack of proper fall protection is usually at the top of OSHA's Top 10 most frequently citied OSHA standard violations.

OSHA is not just concerned with work related fatalities. OSHA oversees all aspects of worker health and safety. This includes work-related injuries and illnesses. Take a look at the following list to get a sense of the most common workplace violations encountered by OSHA.

2017 Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violations:

  1. Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  2. Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]]
  3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  4. Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  5. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  6. Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  7. Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  8. Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  9. Fall Protection-Training Requirements (29 CFR 1926.503) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
  10. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Construction's "Fatal Four"

Out of 4,693 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2016, 991 or 21.1% were in construction. Consequently, OSHA is focusing on the following causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry: falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between.

These "Fatal Four" were responsible for more than half (63.7%) the construction worker deaths in 2016, BLS reports. It is estimated that eliminating the Fatal Four would save 631 workers' lives in America every year.

OSHA Jurisdiction

Fatalities in 2015
Twenty-six states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans. Twenty-two State Plans (21 states and one U.S. territory) cover both private and state and local government workplaces. The remaining six State Plans (five states and one U.S. territory) cover state and local government workers only.
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OSHA covers most private sector employers and workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions, either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state plan. State plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states instead of Federal OSHA.

State Plans

State Plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states rather than federal OSHA. OSHA 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 OSHA-approved State Plan.

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

For more information see: OSHA's State Plan Page

Employee Rights

It is the employer's duty to provide workplaces that are free of known dangers that could harm employees.
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The OSH Act gives employees the right to safe and healthful working conditions. It is the duty of employers to provide workplaces that are free of known dangers that could harm their employees. This law also gives employees important rights to participate in activities to ensure their protection from job hazards. Employees have basic rights under the OSH Act.

  • Work in a safe workplace.
  • Raise a safety or health concern with your employer or OSHA, or report a work-related injury or illness, without being retaliated against.
  • Receive information and training on job hazards, including all hazardous substances in your workplace.
  • Request an OSHA inspection of your workplace if you believe there are unsafe or unhealthy conditions. OSHA will keep your name confidential. You have the right to have a representative contact OSHA on your behalf.
  • Participate (or have your representative participate) in an OSHA inspection and speak in private to the inspector.
  • File a complaint with OSHA within 30 days (by phone, online or by mail) if you have been retaliated against for using your rights.
  • See any OSHA citations issued to your employer.
  • Request copies of your medical records, tests that measure hazards in the workplace, and the workplace injury and illness log.

A job must be safe or it cannot be called a good job. OSHA strives to make sure that every employee in the nation goes home unharmed at the end of the workday, the most important right of all.

For more information on employee rights, see Workers' Rights

Employer Responsibilities

Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. (Click to enlarge)

Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers MUST provide their employees with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and must follow all OSHA safety and health standards. Employers must find and correct safety and health problems.

OSHA further requires that employers must try to eliminate or reduce hazards first by making feasible changes in working conditions - switching to safer chemicals, enclosing processes to trap harmful fumes, or using ventilation systems to clean the air are examples of effective ways to get rid of or minimize risks - rather than just relying on personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, or earplugs.

Employers MUST also:

  • Prominently display the official OSHA poster that describes rights and responsibilities under the OSH Act.
  • Inform workers about hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets and other methods.
  • Train workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand.
  • Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling, required by some OSHA standards.
  • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
  • Post OSHA citations and injury and illness data where workers can see them.
  • Notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace fatality or within 24 hours of any work-related inpatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.
  • Not retaliate against workers for using their rights under the law, including their right to report a work- related injury or illness.

Making a Difference

Fatalities in 2015
Fatalities by State in 2015.
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Worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities

In more than four decades, OSHA and their state partners, coupled with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace safety.

  • Worker deaths in America are down-on average, from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 14 a day in 2016.
  • Worker injuries and illnesses are down-from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 2.9 per 100 in 2016.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 5,190 workers were killed on the job in 2016 (3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) — on average, 99 a week or about 14 deaths every day.

For more information on injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by state, see the BLS Statistics Page.

Building Evacuation due to Fire - ACC Video

Viewing this video is optional.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. The OSHA Act does NOT cover workers in which of the following locations?

2. The top two OSHA cited workplace violations in 2017 were _____.

3. State-run safety and health programs must be _____.

4. Employees have which the following rights under the OSH Act.

5. As an employee, you _____ comply with all occupational safety and health standards issued under the OSH Act that apply to your own actions and conduct on the job.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.