Occupational Safety And Health Administration

Created on

December 29, 1970

Created by

United States Congress and President Richard Nixon


to assure safe and healthful conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach, education and compliance assistance

  • Under the OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their workers.
  • Coupled with the efforts of employers, workers, safety and health professionals, unions and advocates, OSHA and its state partners have dramatically improved workplace safety, reducing work-related deaths and injuries by more than 65 percent.



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

      2.1  Private Sector Workers

  • 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.


  • State and Local Government Workers
  • Workers at state and local government agencies are not covered by Federal OSHA, but have OSH Act protections if they work in those states that have an OSHA-approved state program.
  • OSHA rules also permit states and territories to develop plans that cover only public sector (state and local government) workers. In these cases, private sector workers and employers remain under Federal OSHA jurisdiction.


  • Federal Government Workers
  • OSHA’s protection applies to all federal agencies.
  • Section 19 of the OSH Act makes federal agency heads responsible for providing safe and healthful working conditions for their workers.
  • Although OSHA does not fine federal agencies, it does monitor these agencies and conducts federal workplace inspections in response to workers’ reports of hazards.
  • Federal agencies must have a safety and health program that meets the same standards as private employers.


  • The self-employed
  • Immediate family members of farm employers
  • Workplace hazards regulated by another federal agency (for example, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Energy, or Coast Guard).



      4.1 OSHA’s Cooperative Programs

            4.1.1  Alliance Program

Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. OSHA and the groups work together to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, share information with workers and employers, and educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

            4.1.2  OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP)

The OSPP provides the opportunity for OSHA to partner with employers, workers, professional or trade associations, labor organizations, and/or other interested stakeholders. Each OSHA Strategic Partnership establishes specific goals, strategies, and performance measures to improve worker safety and health.


            4.1.3  Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP)

The VPP recognize employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries.


      4.1.4  OSHA Challenge Program

OSHA Challenge provides interested employers and workers the opportunity to gain assistance in improving their safety and health management systems. Challenge Administrators experienced in safety and health guide Challenge Participants through a three-stage process to implement an effective system to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses.


4.1.5  On-site Consultation Program’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP)

Employers that have a full On-site Consultation visit and meet other requirements may be recognized under SHARP for their exemplary safety and health management systems. Worksites that receive SHARP recognition are exempt from programmed inspections during the period that the SHARP certification is valid.

4.2  Employer Responsibilities

Under OSHA law employers responsibilities are to:

  • Provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSH Act.
  • Examine workplace conditions to make sure they conform to applicable OSHA standards.
  • Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain this equipment.
  • Use color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards.
  • Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.
  • Employers must provide safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
  • Employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must develop and implement a written hazard communication program and train employees on the hazards they are exposed to and proper precautions.
  • Provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
  • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
  • Post OSHA citations and injury and illness data where workers can see them.
  • Provide medical examinations and training when required by OSHA standards.
  • Post, at a prominent location within the workplace, the poster informing employees of their rights and responsibilities.
  • Keep recordsof work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Provide accessto employee medical records and exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives.
  • Provide to the OSHA compliance officer the names of authorized employee representatives who may be asked to accompany the compliance officer during an inspection.
  • Not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the Act.
  • Correct cited violations by the deadline set in the OSHA citation and submit required verification documentation.
  • OSHA encourages all employers to adopt an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Injury and Illness Prevention Programs include management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement.



Under OSHA law, workers are entitled to working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.


5.1 Workers have the right to:

  • Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
  • File a confidential complaint with OSHA to have their workplace inspected.
  • Receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
  • Be trained in a language you understand.
  • Work on machines that are safe.
  • Be provided required safety gear, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls.
  • Be protected from toxic chemicals.
  • The training must be done in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
  • Receive copies of records of work-related injuries and illnesses that occur in their workplace.
  • Receive copies of the results from tests and monitoring done to find and measure hazards in their workplace.
  • Receive copies of their workplace medical records.
  • Participate in an OSHA inspection and speak in private with the inspector.
  • File a complaint with OSHA if they have been retaliated against by their employer as the result of requesting an inspection or using any of their other rights under the OSH Act.
  • File a complaint if punished or retaliated against for acting as a “whistleblower” under the 21 additional federal laws for which OSHA has jurisdiction.


  • Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers, shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.
  • Where employees provide their own protective equipment, the employer shall be responsible to assure its adequacy, including proper maintenance, and sanitation of such equipment.
  • All personal protective equipment shall be of safe design and construction for the work to be performed.



OSHA standards are rules that describe the methods employers are legally required to follow to protect their workers from hazards. Construction, General Industry, Maritime, and Agriculture standards protect workers from a wide range of serious hazards. These standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to, require the use of certain safe practices and equipment, and require employers to monitor certain workplace hazards.


Examples of OSHA standards include requirements for employers to:

  • provide fall protection
  • prevent trenching cave-ins
  • prevent exposure to some infectious diseases
  • ensure the safety of workers who enter confined spaces
  • prevent exposure to harmful chemicals
  • put guards on dangerous machines
  • provide respirators or other safety equipment
  • provide training for certain dangerous jobs in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.

Employers must also comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act. This clause requires employers to keep their workplaces free of serious recognized hazards and is generally cited when no specific OSHA standard applies to the hazard.




Inspections are initiated without advance notice, conducted using on-site or telephone and facsimile investigations, performed by highly trained compliance officers, and based on the following priorities:

  • Imminent danger.
  • Catastrophes – fatalities or hospitalizations.
  • Worker complaints and referrals.
  • Targeted inspections – particular hazards, high injury rates.
  • Follow-up inspections.


On-site inspections can be triggered by a complaint from a current worker or their representative if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA standards or rules.




  • OSHA Training Institute

The OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers are a national network of nonprofit organizations authorized by OSHA to deliver occupational safety and health training to private sector workers, supervisors, and employers.


  • Educational Materials
  • These include utilities such as expert advisors, electronic compliance assistance, videos and other information for employers and workers, OSHA’s software programs and eTools.
  • OSHA’s extensive publications help explain OSHA standards, job hazards, and mitigation strategies and provide assistance in developing effective safety and health programs.


  • QuickTakes

OSHA’s free, twice-monthly online newsletter, QuickTakes, offers the latest news about OSHA initiatives and products to assist employers and workers in finding and preventing workplace hazards.