OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created this agency to provide safe working conditions for American workers. OSHA covers most private-sector companies and their employees. Without OSHA, workplace safety would be left up to individual employers and job safety would likely be very different than it is today.
OSHA sets safety standards to protect workers. Federal standards are divided into four main categories: agriculture, construction, maritime and general industry. OSHA customizes standards to address worker hazards in each area. Some standards, such as providing personal protective equipment and hazardous materials notifications, apply to all industries. Without safety standards, worker protection would be inconsistent. Companies would not have to maintain a minimum level of safety.
Part of OSHA’s mission to promote workplace safety is through outreach and training. OSHA wants employers and workers to be knowledgeable about health and safety hazards, and the agency offers a number of training opportunities. Some safety standards also require that certain job tasks may only be performed by employees that are "certified" or "qualified" because of special training. Without training, employees would not be as likely to recognize on-the-job dangers and could perform specialized job functions without proper training. If companies were not well-trained on industry hazards and were not required to train employees, workplace injuries would likely increase.
OSHA not only sets safety standards, it enforces them. OSHA has the authority to inspect workplaces by trained compliance safety and health officers. When a company has had a fatality, major workplace catastrophe or an employee complaint, OSHA will launch an inspection to determine if the employer is at fault. Other inspections are follow-ups to previous inspections, or when a company is targeted because of high injury rates or number of safety citations. When a company violates safety standards, it may be penalized anywhere from $50 to $70,000 for each violation. Without the threat of citations and large penalties, some employers could become lax in keeping workers safe.
Under OSHA, employees have a number of rights. Employees are to receive adequate training on job dangers, access to records on worker illness and injuries and copies of test results regarding job hazards. Employees who feel their company is not providing a safe work environment may contact OSHA to request an inspection. It is illegal for companies to discriminate or retaliate against employees who use their rights. Without these protections, workers could fear repercussions or loss of employment if they complain about workplace safety.
Sharon O'Neil has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has been published on various websites, including Walden University's Think+Up. She has worked in international business and is a licensed customs broker. She is currently a supervisor with a social service agency that works with families to prevent child abuse and neglect. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in business from Indiana University.