Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. Congress established the agency under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which President Richard M. Nixon signed into law on December 29, 1970. OSHA's mission is 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". The agency is also charged with enforcing a variety of whistleblower statutes and regulations. OSHA is currently headed by Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels. OSHA's workplace safety inspections have been shown to reduce injury rates and injury costs without adverse effects to employment, sales, credit ratings, or firm survival.
Health and safety standards
The Occupational Safety and Health Act grants OSHA the authority to issue workplace health and safety regulations. These regulations include limits on hazardous chemical exposure, employee access to hazard information, requirements for the use of personal protective equipment, and requirements to prevent falls and hazards from operating dangerous equipment.
OSHA’s current Construction, General Industry, Maritime and Agriculture standards are designed to protect workers from a wide range of serious hazards. Examples of OSHA standards include requirements for employers to: provide fall protection such as a safety harness/line or guardrails; prevent trenching cave-ins; prevent exposure to some infectious diseases; ensure the safety of workers who enter confined spaces; prevent exposure to harmful chemicals; put guards on dangerous machines; provide respirators or other safety equipment; and provide training for certain dangerous jobs in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
OSHA sets enforceable permissible exposure limits (PELs) to protect workers against the health effects of exposure to hazardous substances, including limits on the airborne concentrations of hazardous chemicals in the air. Most of OSHA’s PELs were issued shortly after adoption of the OSH Act in 1970. Attempts to issue more stringent PELs have been blocked by litigation from industry; thus, the limits have not been updated since 1971. The agency has issued non-binding, alternate occupational exposure limits that may better protect workers.
Employers must also 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.
In its first year of operation, OSHA was permitted to adopt regulations based on guidelines set by certain standards organizations, such as the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, without going through all of the requirements of a typical rulemaking. OSHA is granted the authority to promulgate standards that prescribe the methods employers are legally required to follow to protect their workers from hazards. Before OSHA can issue a standard, it must go through a very extensive and lengthy process that includes substantial public engagement, notice and comment. The agency must show that a significant risk to workers exists and that there are feasible measures employers can take to protect their workers.
In 2000, OSHA issued an ergonomics standard. In March 2001, Congress voted to repeal the standard through the Congressional Review Act. The repeal, one of the first major pieces of legislation signed by President George W. Bush, is the only instance that Congress has successfully used the Congressional Review Act to block a regulation.
Since 2001, OSHA has issued the following standards:
2002: Exit Routes, Emergency Action Plans, and Fire Prevention Plans
2004: Commercial Diving Operations
2004: Fire Protection in Shipyards
2006: Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium
2006: Assigned Protection Factors for Respiratory Protection Equipment
2007: Electrical Installation Standard
2007: Personal Protective Equipment Payment (Clarification)
2008: Vertical Tandem Lifts
2010: Cranes and Derricks in Construction
2010: General Working Conditions in Shipyards
2012: GHS Update to the Hazard Communication Standard
2014: New Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements for Employers
2014: Revision to Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution; Electrical Protective Equipment
2016: Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica
2016: Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses
Reprinted with permission from wikipedia