Who regulates workplace safety?

Occupational safety has only been researched and regulated for a relatively short amount of time with the first session of the International Labour Organization/World Health Organization Committee on Occupational Health in 1950. Since then, government agencies, institutions, and organizations have worked to develop and enforce regulations that promote and maintain physical, mental, and social well-being.

In the United States, the Department of Labor regulates workplace safety and has agencies to enforce these standards. The largest and most well-known of these agencies is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSH Act of 1970 regulates safety for the majority of private sector employees, and OSHA is the government agency that enforces the act. In addition, OSHA approves state-run safety and health programs that effectively cover state and local government workers in addition to private sector employees. Many of the regulations developed by OSHA are developed alongside the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a federal agency that conducts research and provides recommendations to OSHA.

There are also federal laws and agencies responsible for specific industries such as mining, nuclear weapons manufacturing, and aviation. For instance, the mining industry in the U.S. adheres to safety standards developed by the Mining Health and Safety Association (MHSA).

Other countries have their own agencies and institutions to regulate workplace safety; Canadian workers are protected by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work enforces standards for the member states in the European Union.

Government agencies are not the only institutions to develop occupational health and safety standards; there are both national and international management systems. Important players in the United States include the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Each conducts their own research, develops standards and procedures, and works with government agencies to implement or promote them.


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