Since 1970, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has worked to create safe workplaces for all U.S. employees. A part of the Department of Labor, one of OSHA's major tasks is to establish workplace safety standards and programs and monitor employer compliance. By requiring employers to create and then implement worker safety programs, OSHA's efforts help to reduce employee on-the-job injuries, illnesses and fatalities. OSHA also helps improve employee safety through a number of mechanisms, including requiring workplace safety bulletin boards.
OSHA Workplace Safety
OSHA is responsible for setting and enforcing workplace safety and health standards and providing safety training, outreach, education and compliance assistance. By law, OSHA's safety reach covers most private sector employers and workers in the U.S. OSHA attempts to work with employers in a collaborative fashion to assist them in creating, implementing and then maintaining employee safety programs where required. OSHA, though, can also sanction and fine employers failing in their duty to provide safe and healthy workplaces.
OSHA Safety Programs
Private sector employers must follow all OSHA safety and health standards, including in the operation of occupational safety programs. For one, OSHA requires employers to inform their workers about workplace hazards through training, labels, alarms, hazardous material information sheets and other means. Additionally, employers must provide OSHA-approved safety training and keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses. Employers also must prominently display the OSHA "Job Safety and Health - It's the Law" poster, typically on a dedicated safety information bulletin board.
Worker Personal Protective Equipment
Depending on the industry, employers are required under OSHA regulations to provide appropriate worker personal protective equipment or PPE. Employers also aren't allowed to charge workers for the PPE they must wear as a part of their jobs. Common PPE for workers includes respirators, eye and hearing protection, gloves, safety vests and hard hats. Employers must also provide their workers with hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards and notify the agency within eight hours of a workplace fatality.
OSHA Worker Rights
U.S. workers always have the right to report a work-related injury or illness to OSHA themselves. Employers can't retaliate or discriminate against workers for exercising their workplace safety rights under the law. Additionally, workers have the right to file a confidential complaint with OSHA to have their workplace inspected. Under OSHA regulations, workers are also allowed to participate in an OSHA inspection of their workplaces and to speak in private with the inspector.
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