Importance of OSHA in the Workplace
You’re familiar with the Occupation Safety & Health Administration, but how much do you know about what the agency really does? Take a few minutes to become better acquainted with OSHA, to make sure you’re taking full advantage of everything it has to offer.
Part of the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA was established in 1970 to guarantee safe and healthy working conditions by creating and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. The agency’s coverage extends to most private sector employers and workers and some public sector employers and workers in the 50 U.S. states and some territories and jurisdictions.
OSHA Laws and Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 — i.e., the OSH Act that established OSHA — requires employers to comply with standards designed to create a safe and healthy workplace. By law, employers are also required to comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which mandates workplaces be free of serious recognized hazards.
Since 1970, OSHA has worked hard to establish general industry, construction, maritime, recordkeeping, and agriculture standards. States are also encouraged to establish and maintain job safety and health programs. In total 22, U.S. states and territories have their own OSHA-approved state plans. Including coverage for both private, state, and local government workers, these plans are required to be at least as effective as the federal OSHA program.
In terms of federal agencies, Federal OSHA is a small one. In conjunction with its state partners, OSHA has roughly 2,100 inspectors working to ensure health and safety standards for 130 million workers are met. Federal OSHA operates with 10 regional offices and 85 local area offices.
The work completed by OSHA saves lives. Since the agency was established, worker deaths in the U.S. have declined from roughly 38 worker deaths per day in 1970 to approximately 13 per day in 2015. Worker injuries and illnesses have dropped from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1970 to 3 incidents per 100 workers in 2015.
OSHA does so much to promote worker safety, but to be effective, employers and employees need to do their part as well. In 2015, 4,836 workers were killed on the job, which averages more than 93 deaths per week or 13 per day. Worksite illnesses and injuries are fully preventable, so if everyone joined OSHA and worked together, that number should be zero.
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