What is OSHA and How Do They Protect Workers?
If you’ve worked in a professional setting, odds are good that you’re heard the name OSHA thrown around. But just what is OSHA, exactly? Understanding the purpose, goals, and overall mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can help you stay safe at work. The federal agency aims to protect workers and foster safe work environments. To better understand OSHA’s role in the modern workplace, let’s dive into some common questions about the organization.
What is OSHA?
Somewhere, at this very moment, someone in the United States is violating a safety procedure. It could be something minor, such as not wearing gloves during one final warehouse task. But, it could also be a significant safety mistake — for example, something like driving a forklift with bald tires.
Whenever workplace safety rules are ignored, the possibility exists for on-the-job accidents that can lead to property and personal damage, including severe injuries and even death. So what is OSHA? It’s the U.S. government’s regulatory body for determining workplace safety violations, is responsible for making sure that companies have their own safety plans in place to prevent these potential accidents and tragedies.
OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In 2021, President Biden nominated Doug Parker as Assistant Secretary of Labor and leader of OSHA. It is part of the U.S. Department of Labor (USDL) and was officially created on Dec. 29, 1970 when President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA has a broad range of power in regards to workplace health and safety laws. The agency covers most private sector employers and their workers, along with various public sector employers and workers.
What is the Purpose of OSHA?
With a working understanding of what is OSHA, we can go a little deeper to understand the agency’s role in the average American workplace. The agency has maintained an ongoing commitment to improve workplace safety at companies nationwide. Initially, OSHA was allowed to create regulations based on guidelines established by industry standards organizations. It has capitalized on its ability to offer best practices, recommendations, and insights to help companies safeguard employees against industry-specific workplace hazards.
To understand what is the purpose of OSHA, look to their mission statement. The agency says they aim to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” To accomplish this goal, OSHA supports private and public sector employers and workers in several areas, including:
Training and Certification
OSHA creates standards that require employers to teach workers how to safely perform daily tasks in a variety of industries. For instance, all forklift operators are required to be trained and certified before they begin working. OSHA says that employers are required to provide these training and certification opportunities to workers free of charge. These OSHA requirements for training help keep employees of all backgrounds and experience levels safe on the job.
OSHA is available to explain how employers can comply with safety mandates and keep their workers safe against on-the-job accidents, injuries, and fatalities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, OSHA offered a number of resources to businesses to help keep workers safe.
Information for Workers
OSHA encourages workers to reach out to report unsafe work conditions; in the event that an employer ignores workers’ complaints about an unsafe work environment, OSHA can inspect a workplace and evaluate and address dangerous work practices.
Why Do Workers Need to be OSHA Certified?
With a working understanding of what is OSHA, many business owners mistakenly believe their guidelines are mere suggestions. In fact, businesses in the United States are required by law to follow OSHA regulations. These requirements exist for a reason: to keep employees safe and to prevent injuries and fatalities in the workplace. When a company fails to comply with OSHA requirements for training and safety, the agency may impose fines and penalties. In turn, a company’s professional reputation may be damaged. This can result in revenue losses and make it challenging to retain both customers and employees.
OSHA is only as effective as the businesses they oversee. As a safety regulatory agency, there are limits to what officials can do to enforce their requirements. Financial penalties are often the only thing motivating employers to comply. It behooves workers to understand their rights in the workplace and to get in touch with OSHA when safety violations occur. After all, what is the purpose of OSHA if not to penalize unsafe working practices?
It is up to employers to follow OSHA regulations and stay updated on any changes. Employers are also frequently required to provide training and certification opportunities for their workers. Education can do wonders to help employees minimize risk in the workplace each day.
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