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.
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.
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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.
2018 Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violations:
Out of 4,674 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2017, 971 or 20.7% were in construction. Consequently, OSHA is focusing on the following causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry:
The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites are:
These "Fatal Four" accident categories are responsible for nearly three out of five construction worker deaths. Falls represent the cause of most of these accidents. Eliminating the "Fatal Four" would save more than 400 workers' lives in America every year. For more information on the fatal four accident categories, see courses 806, 807, 808, and 809.
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 as defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
State Plans are OSHA-approved workplace safety and health programs operated by individual states or U.S. territories. There are 22 State Plans covering both private sector and state and local government workers, and there are six State Plans covering only state and local government workers. State Plans are monitored by OSHA and must be at least as effective as OSHA in protecting workers and in preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths.
For more information see: OSHA's State Plan Page
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.
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
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:
In more than four decades, 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.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 5,147 workers died on the job in 2017 (3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) — on average, more than 99 a week or more than 14 deaths every day.
For more information on injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by state, see the BLS Statistics Page.
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