With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 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.

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970

To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by:

  • Authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act.
  • Assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions.
  • Providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and/or other purposes.  

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA is an office of the Department of Labor and the Secretary of Labor is a member of the President’s Cabinet.

OSHA covers most private sector employers and workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved State Program. State-run programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program.

General Duty Clause: Employers must comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act. This clause requires employers to keep their workplaces free of serious recognized hazards and is generally cited when no specific OSHA standard applies to the hazard.

Employers must:

  • Furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.
  • Comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
  • Follow all relevant OSHA safety and health standards.
  • Find and correct safety and health hazards.
  • Inform employees about chemical hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets and other methods.
  • Notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace fatality or when three or more workers are hospitalized.
  • Provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
  • Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Post OSHA citations, injury and illness summary data, and the OSHA “Job Safety and Health – It’s The Law” poster in the workplace where workers will see them.
  • Not discriminate or retaliate against any worker for using their rights under the law.

Employee’s rights & responsibilities: 

  • Shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.
  • Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
  • Receive information and training (in a language workers can understand) about chemical and other hazards, methods to prevent harm, and OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Get copies of test results done to find and measure hazards in the workplace.
  • File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA rules. When requested, OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
  • Whistleblower Protections: Use their rights under the law without retaliation or discrimination. If an employee is fired, demoted, transferred, intimidated, threatened or discriminated against in any way for using their rights under the law, they can file a complaint with OSHA. This complaint must be filed within 30 days of the alleged discrimination. These rights include filing an OSHA complaint, participating in an inspection or talking to an inspector, seeking access to employer exposure and injury records, and raising a safety or health complaint with the employer.

California’s State-Run Program (Cal/OSHA)

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, protects workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California through its research and standards, enforcement, and consultation programs. Cal/OSHA also oversees programs promoting public safety on elevators, amusement rides, and ski lifts. In addition, the division oversees programs promoting the safe use of pressure vessels (e.g., boilers and tanks).

In accordance with Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, Section 3203 of the General Industry Safety Orders: In California every employer has a legal obligation to provide and maintain a safe and healthful workplace for employees, according to the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973. As of 1991, the employer has the responsibility to establish, implement, and maintain a written, effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). An effective program can help assure the safety and health of employees while on the job. The benefits of an effective IIPP include improved workplace safety and health, better morale, increased productivity, and reduced costs of doing business. Because Cal/OSHA has the IIPP, OSHA’s General Duty Clause does not apply.

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