6 things you need to know about OSHA

OSHA employs approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers. That equates to one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.

OSHA employs approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers. That equates to one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.

Most people associate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with two words: enforcement and fines. So it’s hard to blame budget-conscious employers for casting a suspicious eye, if not running the other direction, when an OSHA inspector comes knocking.

But Congress had more in mind when it created America’s workplace safety regulatory agency way back in 1970. For evidence, look no further than the other part of OSHA’s mission.

Lawmakers made it clear that training, outreach, education and assistance are critical tools in OSHA’s strategy to protect everyone’s right to a safe workplace.

In is occasional series of posts, we’ll pull the curtain back on OSHA. Our goal is to allay your fears, give you tips for staying off OSHA’s radar and teach you what to expect if an inspector visits your workplace.

With that, here are seven things you need to know about OSHA.

1. Your business is probably subject to OSHA regulations
Most private sector employers and their workers, along with some public sector employers and workers, fall under OSHA’s jurisdiction. OSHA does not cover self-employed workers, and its standards do not address hazards regulated by other federal agencies, such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

2. Injury rates are down since OSHA was created
OSHA is achieving the mission lawmakers envisioned. By partnering with employers, safety professionals and other stakeholders, OSHA has dramatically reduced injuries and deaths:

  • Since 1970, workplace fatality rates have dropped 66 percent, while U.S. employment has doubled.
  • Worker deaths in America declined from an average of about 38 deaths a day in 1970 to 13 a day in 2014.
  • Worker injuries and illnesses declined from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.2 per 100 in 2014.

3. OSHA standards fall into four categories
OSHA standards are rules that explain the methods employers are legally required to follow to protect their workers from hazards. OSHA standards fall into four categories: general industry, construction industry, maritime and agriculture. OSHA standards address such things as fall protection, confined spaces and hazardous chemicals.

4. For everything else, there is the general duty clause
OSHA could not possibly enforce standards addressing every workplace hazard. So, it created the general duty clause, which regulates heat stress, workplace violence and other hazards not specifically addressed by OSHA standards.

5. OSHA prioritizes its inspections
OSHA employs approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers at more than 8 million worksites around the nation. That equates to one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers. With limited resources, OSHA prioritizes its inspections. Hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm receive top priority, followed by injuries and illnesses employers are required to report to OSHA.

6. Employers have access to free compliance assistance
OSHA offers a range of free services to help employers understand and comply with standards. One of those free services is the Occupational Safety and Health Consultation program (OSHCON). Under the OSHCON program, consultants from the Texas Department of Insurance will survey your job site, identify OSHA violations and help you correct hazards. OSHCON consultants are not OSHA employees, and they do not issue citations or penalties.

More resources

  • For more FAQs about OSHA, click here.
  • To learn what to expect from an OSHA inspection, click here.
  • To learn how to comply with your OSHA injury and illness log posting obligations, click here.
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