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.
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:
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 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 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
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 their 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), 5,190 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.
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