Course 600 - Introduction to Occupational Safety and Health

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

Introduction to Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

In 1970, the United States Congress and President Richard Nixon passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSH Act of 1970, creating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a national public health agency dedicated to the basic proposition that no worker should have to choose between their life and their job.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Passed with bipartisan support, the creation of the OSH Act of 1970 was a historic moment of cooperative national reform. The OSHA Act makes it clear the right to a safe workplace is a basic human right. Since OSHA's first day on the job, the agency has delivered remarkable progress for our nation. Workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths have fallen dramatically. Together with state partners, OSHA has tackled deadly safety hazards and health risks. The organization has established common sense standards and enforced the law against those who put workers at risk. The standards, enforcement actions, compliance assistance and cooperative programs have saved thousands of lives and prevented countless injuries and illnesses.

OSHA's "Fatal Four"

The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites are:

  • falls
  • electrocution
  • struck by object, and
  • caught-in/between.

These “Fatal Four” accident categories are responsible for nearly three out of five construction worker deaths. Eliminating the “Fatal Four” would save over 400 workers’ lives in America every year. For more information on the fatal four accident categories, see OSHAcademy courses 806 Focus Four: Fall Hazards, 807 Focus Four: Caught-In or -Between Hazards, 808 Focus Four: Struck-By Hazards, and 809 Focus Four: Electrocution Hazards.

OSHA's Top 10

OSHA also oversees all aspects of worker health and safety including work-related accidents and illnesses. For example, OSHA has established rules to help prevent workers from being exposed to environments which could cause physical injury or illness.

Take a look at the following list to get a sense of the most common workplace violations.

Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violations for 2017:

Fall Protection
Lack of proper fall protection is usually at the top of OSHA's Top 10.
  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

Private Sector Workers

Construction Worker with PPE carrying wood
OSHA protects employees

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. 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. 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.

The following states have approved state plans:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virgin Islands
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Note: The Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Virgin Island plans cover public sector (State and Local government) employment only.

OSHA's State Occupational Safety and Health Plans

Do you know what Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) law(s) cover your employer? Who has the authority to inspect your employer for OSH compliance? What agency do you call for an OSH complaint or to report a violation?

An article from our partner, HSE Press Journal, takes a closer look at OSHA regulations and what you need to know to protect your employees. Click here to read the article.

Employee Rights

As an employee, you have several rights when it comes to the OSH Act.

  1. You have the right to notify your employer or OSHA about workplace hazards. You may ask OSHA to keep your name confidential.
  2. You have the right to request an OSHA inspection if you believe there are unsafe and unhealthful conditions in your workplace.
  3. You can file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of retaliation or discrimination by your employer for making safety and health complaints.
  4. You have the right to see OSHA citations issued to your employer. Your employer must post the citations at or near the place of the alleged violations.
  5. Your employer must correct workplace hazards by the date indicated on the citation and must certify these hazards have been reduced or eliminated.
  6. You have the right to copies of your medical records and records of your exposures to toxic and harmful conditions or substances.
  7. Your employer must post this notice in your workplace.
  8. You must comply with all occupational safety and health standards issued under the OSH Act that apply to your own actions and conduct on the job.
Fatalities in 2015
Fatalities by State in 2015.
(Click to Enlarge)

Making a Difference

OSHA and its state partners, coupled with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace safety. Before OSHA was created in 1970, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job every year. Today, workplaces are much safer and healthier, going from 38 fatal injuries a day to 12. But there is still much work to be done.

Why Was OSHA Created


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. What are the top two "Fatal Four" accident categories in construction?

2. The top two OSHA cited workplace violations in 2016 were _____.

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

4. As an employee, you have 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.