About OSHA: An Overview

About OSHA 2023

OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal agency that was created in 1971 to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor and covers most private-sector employers and their workers, as well as some public-sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority.

History of OSHA

The Bureau of Labor Standards of the Department of Labor had worked on some work safety issues since its creation in 1922, but it was not until the 1960s that increasing economic expansion and political pressures led Congress to establish OSHA under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which President Richard M. Nixon signed into law on December 29, 1970

Since then, OSHA has developed several training, compliance assistance, and health and safety recognition programs, such as the OSHA Training Institute, the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, and the Voluntary Protection Programs. 

OSHA has also helped reduce workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses significantly by setting and enforcing standards for various hazards, such as toxic chemicals, machine guarding, fall protection, electrical safety, and ergonomics.

Rights and Responsibilities under OSHA

The OSH Act gives workers the right to safe and healthful working conditions and employers the responsibility to provide a safe workplace.

Some of the key rights and responsibilities for workers and employers are summarized in the table below:

Workers

Employers

Receive workplace safety and health training in a language they understand, for example Spanish speaking employees must be offered access to OSHA 10 hour Spanish language courses.

Provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSH Act

Work on machines that are safe

Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain this equipment

Receive required safety equipment, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls

Use color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards

Be protected from toxic chemicals

Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements

Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector

Provide safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand

Report an injury or illness, and get copies of their medical records

Provide medical examinations and training when required by OSHA standards

Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses

Post, at a prominent location within the workplace, the OSHA poster informing employees of their rights and responsibilities

See results of tests taken to find workplace hazards

Report to the nearest OSHA office all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours

Speak up about hazards without fear of retaliation

Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses

File a complaint or a whistleblower complaint with OSHA if they believe there is a violation or retaliation

Provide access to employee medical records and exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives

Correct cited violations by the deadline set in the OSHA citation and submit required abatement verification documentation

Provide access to employee medical records and exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives



About OSHA

How to File a Workplace Safety Complaint

If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, you may file a confidential complaint with OSHA and ask for an inspection. If possible, tell your employer about your concerns.

You have several options to file a complaint:

  • OnlineUse the Online Complaint Form
  • Fax/Mail/Email – Complete the OSHA Complaint Form (or write a letter), and then fax, mail, or email it back to your local OSHA office
  • Telephone – Call your local OSHA office or 800-321-6742 (OSHA)
  • In Person – Visit your local OSHA office

A signed complaint is more likely to result in an onsite inspection. You can also request that your name not be revealed to your employer.

You can find out more detailed information here about reporting OSHA violations.

How to File a Whistleblower Complaint

You have the right to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA if you believe your employer retaliated against you for exercising your rights as an employee under the whistleblower protection laws enforced by OSHA. You must file your complaint within 30 days of the alleged retaliation. 

You have several options to file a whistleblower complaint:

Online – Use the Online Whistleblower Complaint Form

Fax/Mail/Email – Complete the Online Whistleblower Complaint Form (or write a letter), and then fax, mail, or email it to your local OSHA office

Telephone – Call your local OSHA office or 800-321-6742 (OSHA)

In Person – Visit your local OSHA office

You can also file a whistleblower complaint with the state agency that administers the state plan, if applicable. 

Summary

This article was a brief overview of OSHA. The About OSHA modules are mandatory in both the 10 Hour construction and 10 Hour general courses and provide in depth information on rights and responsibilities as part of your journey to get OSHA certified.

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