Overview: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the division of the Department of Labor in charge of creating and enforcing workplace safety and health laws. With limited exceptions, OSHA regulates almost all private industry workers in states that do not have their own OSHA-approved state plan.
OSHA creates regulations for several specific industries, as well as general regulations for all industries; it conducts inspections of workplaces to make sure employers are complying with applicable standards; and it issues citations for violations. To make compliance easier, OSHA also offers many compliance programs to help employers create safer workplaces and to encourage and recognize the workplaces that go above and beyond, as well as to put extra pressure on those workplaces that consistently fail to follow the regulations.
Along with the health and safety regulations, OSHA also has several recordkeeping and posting requirements that almost all regulated employers must follow. Most employers that fall under OSHA must fill out the OSHA logs every year, as well as post a total injury and illness record in a conspicuous place every year from February 1 to April 30. At all times, employers must have the OSHA Job Safety and Health: It's the Law poster hanging in the workplace.
Trends: OSHA compliance should be on every employer's radar. Not only have the maximum civil monetary penalties for OSHA violations increased by 78 percent, but also, under regulations requiring employers to electronically report injury and illness data, OSHA will make this information available to the public.
Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect guidance from OSHA.
Updated to reflect OSHA enforcement guidance on recordkeeping obligations, effective May 26, 2020.
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Updated to reflect forthcoming amendment extending protections to interns.
HR guidance on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).