Who is OSHA & What Do They Do?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created in 1970, and is a division of the US Department of Labor. OSHA is tasked with ensuring that US workplaces are as safe and healthy as possible for American workers. Prior to OSHA’s creation, there were an average of 14,000 work related fatalities each year in the US, or 38 deaths every single DAY.  Today that number has decreased by 65% to approximately 4,200 deaths per year or 12 per day.  And

OSHA’s impact is actually much better when you consider that the number of US jobs has more than doubled since that time.

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OSHA is currently run by Dr. David Michaels who has a stern reputation for actively promoting enforcement and penalizing violating companies.  His leadership has contributed to a major uptick in enforcement efforts in recent years.

Most states fall under the jurisdiction of Federal OSHA, but 27 states have their own state plans that must meet or exceed OSHA Federal standards.  Texas falls under Federal OSHA which means that all Texas manufacturers must meet or exceed all of OSHA’s health and safety laws. 

OSHA oversees manufacturing & industrial services (General Industry), construction, maritime and even agriculture. They promote health and safety in these areas through 3 primary means: outreach, development of Standards, and enforcement.

Outreach has to do with providing employers with resources, such as their website, training resources, & documentation which are designed to help employers understand and manage their health & safety obligations.

Standards are the basic regulatory requirements that OSHA has developed for managing specific health and safety hazards that exist in the workplace. We’ll talk more about what Standards consist of later in this document, but first let’s clarify what OSHA means by “safety & health hazards” and how Standards help to address them:

Safety & Health Hazards

Safety hazards include things like falls, burns from contact with corrosive chemicals and amputations. Therefore OSHA has developed corresponding safety Standards to help employers manage these risks, such as the Fall Protection Standard, Hazard Communication Standard (chemical safety) & the Lockout/Tagout Standard (control of hazardous energy).

Health hazards, on the other hand, include things like hearing loss and lung disease. In order to manage these hazards, OSHA has created corresponding health Standards such as the Hearing Conservation Standard to protect employees from excessive noise, and the Respiratory Protection Standard to protect employees from health hazards like dust, chemicals and silica.