The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed in 1970 as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The purpose of the national public health agency is to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for Americans. The administration’s directive is to set and enforce standards, and provide training, outreach, education and assistance to American workers and their employers.
OSHA’s safety and health standards have helped prevent work-related illnesses, injuries and deaths for countless workers, including those related to:
- Fall protection
- Cotton dust
- Machine guarding
- Lead and bloodborne pathogens.
Here are 10 things you may not know about OSHA, but should.
- Since its inception in 1970, OSHA has:
- Reduced the rate of on-the-job fatalities by more than half
- Lowered the overall injury and illness rates in many industries
- Virtually eliminated brown lung disease
- Reduced the fatality rate related to construction evacuation and trenching by 35 percent.
- OSHA is administered through the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL regulates and enforces more than 180 federal laws. These laws (and the regulations that enforce them) apply to about 10 million employers and 125 million workers.
- OSHA determines which regulations apply to each workplace and require individuals to follow these standards and requirements.
- All employees – and their employers – under the authority of the Federal government are covered by OSHA. Coverage is provided either directly by the federal administration or through state programs. OSHA does not cover those who are self-employed or farm workers who work for immediate family members, as long as the farm does not employ outside workers.
- OSHA offers an extensive website at osha.gov. The website includes:
- Information about OSHA
- How to find an OSHA office
- Information about state plans
- OSHA-related news
- OSHA newsletter
- Freedom of Information Act
- Laws and regulations
- A forum for commenting on proposed rules, rules and other documents
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Sections dedicated to small business and construction
- Interactive eTools to help employers and employees
- OSHA also offers training programs for employers and employees. Some states mandate hazard training; OSHA’s trainings help employers meet these requirements.
- Workers can file a complaint or report a fatality or severe injury in several ways, including:
- Online at osha.gov
- By mail, email or fax
- By calling your local OSHA Regional Office.
- There are protections in place for whistleblowers. You can file a complaint with OSHA anonymously, but it will be treated as a non-employee complaint and won’t be given as high a priority as a complaint from an employee.
- The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) helps small businesses comply with OSHA regulations and gives them a voice in developing new regulations.
- Enforcement is a major part of OSHA’s efforts to reduce workplace illness, injuries and fatalities. When OSHA finds employers who fail to uphold the safety and health regulations, they will take strong and decisive actions. They will conduct inspections without advance notice based on the following priorities:
- Imminent danger
- Catastrophes (fatalities or hospitalizations)
- Worker complaints and referrals
- Targeted inspections
- Follow-up inspections.
The more you stay on top of OSHA standards, the less likely you’ll violate one of them. OSHA offers self-inspection checklists in their small business handbook. The handbook is based on Federal OSHA standards and other requirements as well as generally-accepted principles and activities within the job safety and health field. They should come in handy to small business owners and managers. You can download a copy of the OSHA Small Business Handbook from the osha.gov website.
To learn more about business insurance and risk management, contact the Lanier Upshaw team here. We are here to help businesses put appropriate insurance coverages in place, improve safety and health for employees and empower managers and safety leaders.