If you are entering any potentially hazardous job, either in the private sector or with a government agency, then you might want to learn more about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Founded by Congress in 1970, OSHA is an organization that works to ensure safe working conditions for American women and men. They both set and enforce health and safety standards, and they also provide training and education in the areas of health and safety. Below you’ll find 5 different functions of OSHA.

Sets Standards

OSHA sets health and safety standards for American workplaces. They do so after listening to recommendations from their various advisory committees. Sometimes they come up with standards on their own, and at other times, they come up with standards through responding to requests from other groups and government agencies, such as the office of the Secretary for Health and Human Services. They publish those standards so employers can follow them. They sometimes grant “variances” if an employer can’t meet the standard right away. They also revise standards as necessary, since technology and other elements in the workplace do change. They can also assess penalties to workplaces in violation.

Listens and Responds to Worker Appeals

One of the functions of OSHA is to listen to worker concerns and find ways to respond to them appropriately. Workers can file a complaint about safety and health issues in the workplace by calling or writing OSHA. OSHA makes it clear that this is a worker right and that employees cannot punish (by demoting or other means) workers who file such complaints. On their website, you can see a list of worker rights, which includes having the right to request that OSHA come in and inspect a work environment.

Publishes Research and Data on Workplace Safety

OSHA is a part of the Department of Labor, which publishes, through the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information on injuries, illnesses, and fatalities related to the workplace. They also make available data on the workplace standards that are most often violated as well as on workplace fatalities.

Issues Hazard Alerts That Help Employers Keep Workers Safe

OSHA also issues hazard alerts to employers to let them know of potential dangers and to inform them of ways they can help workers to avoid such dangers. An example of a recent hazard alert is information on risks for workers who are doing “manual tank gauging and sampling” at sites for oil and gas extraction.

Provides Training and Education

OSHA provides learning resources such as videos and interactive web-based tools on a wide range of health and safety topics, including those related to construction, working with electric power, food processing, working in a hospital, and wood working (just to name a handful). Their training institute provides classes in occupational safety and health for workers such as compliance officers, federal agents, consultants, and others.

OSHA’s scope is wide because their goal is big: to ensure better workplace safety for American workers in a wide range of jobs. Learning more about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can help you to understand your workplace rights.

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