How does OSHA work?

Under the agency of OSHA, workers have the right to a safe workplace free from serious hazards. OSHA has set and developed regulations to ensure workers are kept safe while on the clock. These standards are primarily enforced through inspections. During these inspections, compliance officers will tour and evaluate the facility as well as review any records kept in the facility. Once the inspector has identified possible violations, the employer will receive these violations with corresponding citations in the mail. While employees are protected by the laws of OSHA, employers also hold the right to appeal violations and present their case to OSHA officials.

Whistleblower Protection 

OSHA whistleblower protections

An important component of OSHA is the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program. This program works to enforce the whistleblower provisions and protect employees who report violations of workplace safety and health that their facility. OSHA specifically covers whistleblowers in section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This section ensures an employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against any employee that files a report with OSHA. When an employee raises concerns about workplace health and safety or reports otherwise unreported work-related injuries and illnesses, they’re protected from firing, blacklisting, demoting, disciplining, and other retaliatory efforts made by the employer.

OSHA State Plans

There are also 22 states or territories that have OSHA-approved State Programs. These state programs must be “at least as effective” as OSHA standards, and many times the state plans adopt standards that are identical to OSHA. The state plans however, also have the option to implement or add emphasis to standards regarding hazards not addressed by OSHA standards. Like OSHA, the state plan is required to conduct inspections to enforce its standards, the plans must cover state and local government workers, and there must be occupational safety and health training programs. OSHA has more information on State Plan Standards and Directives here.

OSHA also offers assistance to employers to aid them in being OSHA compliant. This includes a hub of small business resources, a team of compliance assistance specialists, consultation services, and a large number of helpful documents and training materials.


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