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HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal

HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance) requirements by state

Author: Mark Moran


  • The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSH Act covers all private sector employers and their employees in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other US territories. Coverage is provided either directly by the federal OSHA or by an OSHA-approved State Plan. See The OSH Act.
  • The Act encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs. OSHA approves and monitors these state plans, which operate under the authority of state law. States with OSHA-approved State Plans must set standards and recordkeeping requirements that are at least as effective as the equivalent federal standard. See State Plan States.
  • The OSH Act grants employees several important rights. Among these are the right to file a complaint with OSHA about safety and health conditions in their workplaces and, to the extent permitted by law, have their identities kept confidential from employers; contest the amount of time OSHA allows for correcting violations of standards; and participate in OSHA workplace inspections. See Rights and Responsibilities Under OSH Act.
  • The General Duty Clause states that each employer must create a workplace that is free from all recognized hazards for all employees. See General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1)).
  • The OSH Act requires that employers keep basic records necessary or appropriate for the enforcement of the Act. This includes keeping specific records pertaining to employee injuries and illnesses and employee exposure to toxic substances and harmful physical agents. OSHA has relied upon this authority to promulgate regulations covering employee illness and injury recordkeeping obligations, as well as to create separate regulations governing maintenance of and access to employee exposure records. See Recordkeeping Requirements.
  • Every establishment covered by the OSH Act is subject to inspection by OSHA compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs). These occupational safety and health professionals possess the knowledge and experience required to conduct workplace inspections. They have been thoroughly trained in recognizing safety and health hazards and in enforcing OSHA's standards. In states with their own OSHA-approved State Plan, pursuant to state law, state officials conduct inspections, issue citations for violations and propose penalties in a manner that is at least as effective as the federal program. See OSHA Inspections.
  • Private sector employees who exercise their rights under the OSH Act have the right to be protected from employer reprisal. Employees must notify OSHA within 30 days of the time they learned of the alleged discriminatory action. See OSHA Whistleblower Statutes.
  • Each employer needs to establish safety training and employee education programs. These trainings and classes should give information on the importance of and proper use of safety and health equipment. The purpose of this program should be to eliminate accidents in the workplace. There should also be a system in place to help resolve accidents when they do occur and to stop similar accidents from happening. See Safety Management.