The stated mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is 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.” In other words, OSHA protects workers from on-the-job injuries caused by negligent employers. Whether you’re an employer or an employee, it’s important to understand what OSHA does and who it protects as well as its many regulations and guidelines.
What Does OSHA Do?
Since its creation in 1971, OSHA has had the purpose of protecting workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA Act) created the agency and gave it two regulatory functions: “setting standards and conducting inspections to ensure that employers are providing safe and healthful workplaces.” In short, OSHA is a government agency that regulates workplace safety in the U.S. The agency creates regulations to protect workers from unsafe work environments and business practices. Improving working conditions is its continual mission so that employees don’t have to work in dangerous situations every day. OSHA’s reach touches most private sector businesses.
Who Does OSHA Protect?
OSHA’s umbrella of protection extends to most private sector employees and employers. No matter what industry a business is in, the law requires that they follow the regulations and guidelines OSHA has established. OSHA also monitors federal employees and employers, but it doesn’t have the power to levy fines against a federal agency. Its protections don’t cover people who work for state or local governments, the self-employed, or people who work in an industry that a federal agency or its own governing body oversees. Examples of the latter include the mining and health care industries and maritime operations.
The OSHA Act also gave employees the right to file complaints against their employers if the employer isn’t following the established regulations. The worker that files the complaint has the right to withhold their identity from the employer. In the event the complainant’s identity is discovered, whistleblower laws prohibit the employer from retaliating against them. If the whistleblower feels they’re the target of reprisals, they can contact OSHA again to request further investigation. If the employer is found guilty of retaliation, OSHA can order them to reinstate the employee, restore benefits, and/or pay any legal fees incurred during that time.