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What is the Workplace Safety and Health Act?

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Here is a overview of the Workplace Safety and Health Act or OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Act is an Act (which some people refer to as the "workplace safety and health act") originally passed by Congress in 1970, and signed by President Richard Nixon, to promulgate the health and safety of employees while at work. Lawmakers set out to draft legislation that would mandate that employers provide their employees with a workplace free of known dangers and health concerns. It is the primary federal law that governs the health and safety of workers in the private sector and in the federal government in the United States.

The Act was drafted, in part, to ensure that employers be held accountable for the workplace conditions and for any unsafe, unsanitary, or otherwise unhealthy conditions. The law was a milestone in workers’ rights and employees continue to benefit from the improved work conditions that have resulted from the legislation.

The Creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”)

The Occupational Safety and Health Act also created the government entity known as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is part of the U. S. Department of Labor and which enforces workplace safety and health standards.

OSHA provides information, training, and assistance to both employers and employees to help ensure that the safety requirements set forth in the Act are being met. Any workplace safety complaints against a company are investigated by OSHA to determine whether or not the company is in violation of the Act and what remedial action must be taken in order for the company to comply with the Act.





Some of the Requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act

Among the requirements mandated by the Act are that employers must work to reduce or eliminate known hazards in the workplace. For example, the employer might be required to switch to safer chemicals or compounds used in the workplace, to maintain equipment in safe working order, to use proper ventilation systems to ensure clean air, or to otherwise reduce risks to employees. The Act specifies that is it not adequate that personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, or earplugs be utilized, but that the risk itself must also be minimized in order to be in compliance with the Act.

To ensure that employers are adhering to the requirements set forth in the Act, OSHA also requires that employees provide safety training for their employees and that the training be provided in a language that the employees can understand. Employers must keep detailed and accurate records of work related injuries and illnesses and must post the information where employees can see them. Workers are also entitled to the results of workplace testing and monitoring done to ensure a safe work environment.

Some of the Protections Provided by the Act


The Act also provides certain protections to employees. Besides the right to a safe and healthy workplace, the Act also provides employees with the right to file a complaint with OSHA without fear of reprisal. This right was incorporated into the Act to ease the concerns of workers who feared repercussions from their employers for being a “whistle blower.”

How OSHA Assists Workers and Employers


In an effort to assist businesses with the training of their workers and to help employers better comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA provides free safety material for employers and workers. OSHA also investigates claims, reviews workplace injury records, and sets forth the safety guidelines to which employers must strictly adhere.

Who is Covered by the Act?


While, employees of state and local governments are not covered by federal OSHA standards, they do have protection under the Act if they work in a state which has an OSHA-approved state plan. Additional information about state plans can be found at the OSHA website.

By bringing workplace safety under the control of the federal government, employers face more accountability and employees enjoy better working conditions.

Resources:


United States Code

Environmental Protection Agency

OSHA, "Workers' Rights" publication

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