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Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established in 1970 after congress passed OSHA. This act was passed to ensure that employers provided a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA is a sector of the US Department of Labor (DOL).

OSHA sets and enforces standards and regulations that employers must follow to create a safe working environment for their employees. They provide training, outreach, and education to both employees and employers on these regulations. Employers must comply with all standards and regulations established by OSHA as established by the General Duty Clause. 

Some industry standards are more extensive than others due to their increased occupational hazard. Regulations are broken out by General Industry, Agriculture, Construction, and Maritime. 

OSHA also has standard recordkeeping policies that all employers must follow. For example, there are standards for recording needle stick or sharp injuries, occupational hearing loss, and work-related tuberculosis. Some employers may be partially exempt from reporting or fully documenting all work related accidents or issues. These employers must have fewer than 10 employees to qualify for this exemption status under OSHA.

The Act also enforces the prohibition of discrimination against employees. An employer must not offer favoritism of any kind to an employee or group based on gender, ethnicity, religion, etc.

In order to change or update an OSHA regulation, there is an extensive review procedure commonly referred to as the OSHA Rulemaking Process. Every year, the DOL will publish a list of regulations and standard practices that are in the process of being updated via the Federal Register. This document keeps employers updated on all pending regulation changes. 

If an employee feels that their employer is not abiding by the standard workplace policies established by OSHA and feels unsafe in the workplace, they may file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection of the workplace. The worker doesn’t have to know the specific regulation that has been violated, they simply have to sense that the employer is not compliant with OSHA standards and creating a hazardous work environment. Employees have six months to file a complaint after seeing the hazard, otherwise OSHA can’t get involved. OSHA provides a confidential method of filing a complaint where employees are protected from whistleblower discrimination. Complaints can be filed online, phone, fax, or mail. 

Learn about age discrimination and the equal pay act.