OSHA Regulations Overview

Who is OSHA 

OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The development of OSHA was in resnse to the injuries and deaths of many employees due to their working conditions. 

Who is covered by OSHA 

OSHA covers all businesses, employers and employees within the United States of America. This means all 50 states, and territories under the jurisdiction of the U.S.A. are covered by OSHA and OSHA approved state health and safety programs. OSHA does not cover the self-employed entrepreneurs and employers covered by other federal agencies such as the Mine Safety Health Administration MSHA. 

It must be noted that employers are a person or organization that employs people however this definition does not include state or state subdivision employees. Therefore OSHA applies to a varied scope of employers and employees in fields such as manufacturing, construction, agriculture, law and even education. 

Who is not covered by OSHA 

The following employers and employees who are not covered by OSHA:

  • Self employed entrepreneurs
  • Farms where the farmer only employs direct family members for assistance with no external employees, 
  • Sectors regulated by other federal administrations such as the mining sector and the Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA).
  • Public employees within state and local government unless they fall under a state approved OSHA health and safety program. 

Basic OSHA Responsibilities

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has two main responsibilities, setting the health and safety standards that will be adhered to by businesses and conducting inspections on businesses. Used together two processes ensure a safe work environment. 


OSHA Standards

OSHA Standards will often require a business to improve certain methods and processes that will maintain a safe workplace. While OSHA sets the guidelines and standards it is the employers responsibility to familiarize themselves with the standards that are relevant within their sector and organization, reduce the potential of injuries and illnesses from occurring to their employees and maintain compliance with the standards outlined. Employees must also follow the rules stated when conducting their work responsibilities. 

States with their own health and safety programs must be OSHA approved and be as effective as their OSHA equivalent. 

OSHA Standards can be classified into four categories: 

  • General Industry, 
  • Construction, 
  • Maritime, 
  • Agriculture. 

The four categories above all have standards that address potential hazards unique to their sector however they also contain rules that are standard amongst all OSHA standards. It must be noted that hazards not covered in the industry specific guidelines will be covered in the general standards. 

The following are the common guidelines within the various OSHA categories: 

  • Access to Medical and Exposure records: Employers must grant employees access to their medical records which are held by the employer. 
  • Personal protective equipment: Employers must provide employees with personal protective equipment at no cost. The equipment is used by employees to protect them from hazards while they conduct their work. Protective equipment can range from helmets to face masks and glasses. 
  • Hazard Communication: This refers to the manufacturing and importing of hazardous materials. These products must be clearly labeled. First shipments must include material safety data sheets which employers can using when training employees on the best practices to employees when handling these materials. 

OSHA compliance requirements

Certain OSHA standards are is place for compliance requirements and are included within the OSHA standards: 

  • Recordkeeping: Employers with more than 10 employees are expected to compile a record of all work related injuries and illnesses. The records will be maintained within the OSHA Form 200 and OSHA Form 101. 

The OSHA Form 200 records all injuries and illnesses that resulted in an employee needing more than basic first aid, resulted in the employee losing consciousness or required the employee to be transferred to a new position and relieved of certain duties. This list is compiled over the course of a year and annually displayed for employees to view over the course of a month. 

The OSHA Form 101 records the individual illnesses and injuries that employees have sustained. Bothe the OSHA 101 AND 200 form for employers with less than 10 employees or those in low risk sectors such as retail or finance however in some cases the Department of Labor will require these employers to maintain records for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

  • Reporting: Reporting is another compliance requirement that works in conjunction with record keeping. Work related injuries or illnesses that result in an employee’s death must be reported to OSHA within eight hours as this will result in an OSHA investigation.

Employee rights

Employees are provided a number of rights by OSHA such as the right to report inadequate health and safety standards confidentiality, participate in OSHA inspection and contest the ruling of the violation. 

OSHA covers a large number of employees, those who work in the government sector or are self-employed do not fall under OSHA’s jurisdiction. Government workers are covered by occupational health and safety federal employee programs.

The following is a list of employees OSHA rights: 

  • To seek safe and health working conditions, 
  • Review OSHA standards and regulations provided by the employer, 
  • Request adequate health and safety training, 
  • Request that OSHA investigate the conditions within your workplace, 
  • File an OSHA complaint anonymously, 
  • Review the OSHA work related injuries log. 

Employer rights 

Employers have the following rights provided to them by OSHA: 

  • The right to request an inspection warrant, 
  • The right to request identification from OSHA compliance officers, 
  • Conduct an opening and closing conference with the OSHA compliance inspector, 
  • The right to accompany an OSHA compliance officer during an inspection,
  • The right to content citations and penalties.

OSHA inspections and penalties

Inspections are conducted to enforce standards and are conducted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Inspections are undertaken by OSHA compliance health and safety officers who are experienced health and safety professionals that are educated on OSHA’s stringent health and safety standards. 

While conducting occupational health and safety inspections the following types of violations can be cited with penalties proposed: 

  • Other-Than-Serious Violation: These violations are related to health and safety however they do not lead to serious injuries or death. The financial violation for this penalty can rise up to $7000 however it can also be reduced based on the other variables taken into account. 
  • Serious Violation: This is a violation that could have resulted in death due to a hazard that should have been known to an employer. Much like an other-than-serious-violation the financial penalty can rise up to $7000.
  • Willful Violation: This occurs when an employer is aware of a potential hazard and does not take the steps required to correct it. These violations are intentionally committed. In cases where the employer is convicted of a willful violation that results in the death of an employee the offense is punishable by a fine or imprisonment. 
  • Repeated Violation: A violation that occurs after a reinspection that bears strong similarities to prior violations. This can lead to a financial penalty of up to $70 000. 
  • Failure to Correct Prior Violation: This violation will occur when prio violations have not been corrected. This will result in a fine of up to $7,000 for each day it is not corrected. 
  • Additional Violations: These violations include falsifying workplace records, harassing or assaulting an OSHA officer and interfering with their duties. This can result in a fine of up to $500 000 for a business. 

OSHA Appeals

Employees may not contest the findings or results of an inspection however they may request a meeting with the OSHA inspector to discuss any issues they may have with regards to the inspection or citation. 

Employers may also request meetings with the relevant OSHA representatives, employee selected representatives may attend this meeting. 

If an employee decides to contest the citation they have 15 working days from the time of receiving the citation. The appeal must be written to an OSHA director as verbal disagreements will not be accepted. The written notice of contest does not have a specific format or document however it must clearly identify the employer and basis for contesting the violation. The employee appointed representative should also be provided with a copy of the notice of contest. 

Appeals review procedure

States with OSHA approved health and safety programs have appeal systems in place, the following system is used by OSHA.

Once a notice of contest has been filed OSHA will forward the case to the case Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), this is an independent organization who will assign a judge to preside over the case. The case may be disallowed in cases where it is invalid, in cases where it is valid earnings will be scheduled. The employer has the right to represent themselves in these cases, an attorney is not required. Upon ruling the cases may be appealed further through the   U.S. Court of Appeals.   

OSHA sources

OSHA regulates and maintains the standards they set however assist by providing the material required to maintain compliance. OSHA standards are published by the Federal Register therefore it is possible to gain information on standards from the Federal Register which is available at many public libraries or through their Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which is published annually. 

Local OSHA offices also provide publications, technical advice, signage on workplace hazards, and lecturers who conduct educational speaking engagements. The costs of these vary however it can be beneficial for many companies. 

The OSHA website also contains statistics, news and technical information required when implementing a health and safety program. OSHA also provides a copy of their catalog which includes written and audiovisual information, this may be obtained by contacting OSHA on (202) 219-4667 and requesting a copy. 

Information from OSHA can also be gained through a variety of cloud based occupational health and safety applications which provide up to date information through their knowledge base functions. These systems are particularly beneficial when implementing a health and safety program. 


OSHA Training

Employers and employees can attend training courses conducted at the OSHA Training Institute. The courses provided range from basic to advanced and cover safety and health for compliance safety, topics covered include ergonomics and electric safety among others. OSHA has more than 60 health and safety courses. 

OSHA Initiatives

OSHA donates funds to non profit organizations in order to assist in conducting workplace health and safety training and reduce the number of sectors with inadequate health and safety education. 

Consultations are another service provided by OSHA to employers at a low fee. This service is conducted in order to help employers create and maintain a safe workplace for employees. Through this initiative OSHA aims to assist small and medium enterprises, particularly those within high risk sectors such as construction. The consultation is generally led by an occupational health and safety expert employed within the public sector. The consultation consists of a meeting, a walk through of the businesses worksite to identify possible hazards and a review of the safety program that is relevant to the business, the consultation is closed with the business receiving a written report of the consultations findings. 

The OSHA voluntary protection program is an initiative that aims to increase worker protection. The aim of the plan is to recognize those who have implemented health and safety measures into their business processes and motivate other businesses to do the same. In order to do this employers will submit a VPP application, this is followed by OSHA conducting an onsite review to verify the measures that have been implemented. Upon completion if the business is found to have implemented the safety measures correctly then they will be rewarded with a certificate of approval and a flag during a ceremony.   

OSHA’s relation to other laws

OSHA is responsible for covering the working conditions that are not protected under other legislations, this means that OSHA has the authority to monitor the safety of federal employees however many federal agencies ensure their employees are protected in order to avoid conflict. 

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