Occupational Safety and Health Act or OSHA is an Act passed by the United States Congress to ensure worker and workplace safety. The Act was signed by President Richard Nixon on December 29, 1970. The extended title of the Act is ‘An Act to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes.’.
The goal of this Act is to ensure that the employers provide their workers a workplace free from safety and health hazards like toxic chemicals, mechanical dangers, excessive noise, extreme temperatures, and unhygienic conditions.
Under this Act, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or NIOSH has been created along with the OSHA agency to establish standards for workplace health and safety. The United States Department of Labour ensures the implementation of this Act in every state. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has also been formed under this act to review enforcement priorities, actions, and cases.
Important Definitions and Sections of this Act
Employer – ‘a person engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the United States or any state or political subdivision of a State.’
An employer can be a manufacturer, a construction company, hospital, law firm, religious body which employs workers for secular purposes, charities, labour unions, federal agencies, postal service, and unaided schools. Workplaces covered by other Federal Laws are excluded.
Section 5 – ‘general duty clause’
This clause requires the employer to maintain conditions and adapt practices to protect workers on the job, be familiar with the standards applicable to their establishment, and ensure the use of protective equipment in hazardous environments.
Section 8 – ‘reporting requirements’
‘All employers must report to OSHA within eight hours if an employee dies from a work-related incident, or three or more employees are hospitalized as a result of a work-related incident.’
Additionally, all fatal on-the-job heart attacks must also be reported.
Also, this section permits the inspection and investigation, during working hours, of any workplace covered by the Act.
Section 11(c) – ‘the employer is prohibited from discharging, retaliating, or discriminating against any employee who has exercised his/her rights under this Act’.
Section 18 – ‘the states can adopt their own safety and health plans if they are as effective or better than those defined under OSHA’.