The Occupational Safety and Health Administration | Glossary
Health & Safety Glossary

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration


What Is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)?


OSHA LogoOSHA Logo - Copyright of OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a regulatory agency of the United States Department of Labor. Originally, OSHA was created in 1970 and is responsible for directing initiatives that relate to the health and safety of workers across the country. 

OSHA also helps businesses by providing guidance and compliance documentation on how to reduce accidents, workplace injuries, and to provide a safer environment for employees to work in. 

OSHA originally had federal visitor powers to inspect offices and workplaces. OSHA’s coverage has since increased, and it now covers most private and public sector employers and their employees across a range of different industries.
OSHA’s coverage spreads across all 50 states and it also covers US territories and jurisdictions, including:

  • The District of Columbia 
  • Puerto Rico
  • American Samoa
  • Guam 
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Wake Island
  • Johnston Island
  • Outer Continental Shelf Lands


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Why Is OSHA Important?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s core mission is to offer trainings, compliance assistance and to pilot health and safety programs across the country. 

OSHA’s mission is to “assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” 

OSHA outlines the responsibilities for employers to ensure that they provide a safe workplace to their employees. The OSH Act specifies these requirements to ensure employers create a safe workplace with no legal hazards.

In case any problems are detected, employers must take action and fix any health and safety issues. The OSH Act also specifies worker rights, including important clauses, such as the fact that temporary workers must be treated like permanent employees and should be accorded the same safety standards.

The OSH Act grants full authority to OSHA to issue guidelines for workplace health and safety. From regulations to limiting hazardous chemical exposure to making sure that employees have access to hazardous chemical information, OSHA works to ensure a safer and more secure environment for workers across the country. 

What Is OSHA Responsible For?

OSHA is responsible for making sure that workplace accidents are reduced, and to provide a safer environment to employees and employers. To achieve its goals, OSHA’s responsibilities are divided across several categories.

Devising Standards and Safety Requirements

As mentioned above, OSHA is responsible for setting workplace standards and requirements, and determining which environments they apply to. OSHA’s role is two-part:

  1. Establish standards and determine which environments they’re applicable in. 
  2. Enforce those standards and ensure that employers comply with them. 


To ensure that employers abide by these regulations and standards set by OSHA, they also offer a wide range of tools and hands-on training for both employers and employees. 

OSHA’s requirements include explaining the procedures, the equipment or detailing the training methods to ensure employers and employees both understand the purpose behind these safety measures, and how to enforce them effectively. 

Enforcing Standards

OSHA is also responsible for enforcing these standards. Employees or OSHA representatives have the authority to issue fines that can range well into the thousands of dollars if they find employers in violation of OSHA standards.

In serious situations, employees also have the authority to refer offenders or violators for criminal prosecution as well. In case of any illnesses or job-related accidents, OSHA is also capable of launching inquiries to determine the causes. 

OSHA has handed out fines to many companies. It’s most significant action was in 2005, and against BP Products of North America Inc. After an explosion and a subsequent fire at their refinery that ended up injuring 170 workers and killing 15, OSHA launched a widespread investigation.

The resulting penalties amounted to a total of $87.4 million. 

Requirements for Recordkeeping

As per OSHA requirements, certain employers, especially those working in industries that carry a higher hazard, are required to maintain records of any serious injuries or illnesses in the workplace. 

This information is necessary for employers, its employees, and must be made available to OSHA in case of an inspection. 

Coverage of the OSHA Act

The OSHA Act covers the following:

Private Sector Employees

All private sector employees across 50 states and other jurisdictions of the USA are covered under the OSHA Act. In some cases, coverage is offered directly via OSHA, or through a state plan that’s approved by OSHA. 

Federal OSHA carefully reviews and monitors state plans and in most cases, offers up to 50% of the funding required to keep the programs running. It also requires state-run programs to be similar in terms of effectiveness to its federal counterparts.

Local or State Governments

While local or state government employees aren’t covered by federal OSHA, they still have access to OSHA protections, as long as the states they are in have an OSHA state plan. 

Federal Agencies

All federal government agencies are covered by OSHA protections. All federal agency heads are directly responsible for ensuring safe and healthy working conditions for employees. 

Federal agencies are also required to establish a health and safety program that is on par with the standards set for private employers.

What’s Not Covered Under the OSHA Act?

The OSHA Act doesn’t cover:

  • Any self-employed individuals
  • immediate family members of farm workers, 
  • Any workplace hazards that are regulated by another federal agency, such as the Department of Energy.

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EcoOnline’s Health & Safety Software allows organizations to maintain illustrious records of all workplace incidents, responses, and assessments. It is a cloud-based platform that is highly modular, allowing organizations operating in different industries to seamlessly maintain records and track events. 

This helps organizations maintain full compliance with OSHA requirements and also allows them to improve safety standards in the workplace.