Regulations  >  Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

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Occupational Safety and Health Act – OSHA

Employee and environment safety and health are an essential part of a business’s responsibilities even as it goes about its activities of delivering products and services. To provide businesses with a direction, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 provides guidelines that companies must comply with to proactively prevent injuries and also respond to incidents with appropriate measures.

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What is the Occupational Safety and Health Act?

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 states that employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. This ideology is implemented by enforcing standards, training, and assistance. OSHA’s commitment to workplace safety grants the committee jurisdiction over seven million worksites. OSHA guidelines have evolved over the years to meet the changing dynamics of the work environment. Employers, including small business owners, are mandated to implement OSHA guidelines in their organizations. As part of the United States Department of Labor, OSHA is focused on protecting the workforce’s safety and health while also providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.

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What is the purpose of the Occupational Safety and Health Act?

OSHA was established to assure safe and healthful conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach, education, and compliance assistance. Under the OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their workers. OSHA’s safety and health standards, including those for asbestos, fall protection, cotton dust, trenching, machine guarding, benzene, lead, and bloodborne pathogens, have prevented countless work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. By adhering to the recommended OSHA practices, employers and business owners understand the need for these safety guidelines as it helps:

Prevent injuries, illness, or even death in the workplace

Overcome financial suffering and hardship that can affect workers, family, or even the employers

Improve workplace morale

Create favorable brand image among the community of customers and suppliers

Reduce the attrition rate

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What is the Occupational Health and Safety Act Canada and the United States?

The United States:

The Occupational Health and Safety Act covers most private sector employers and their workers and some public sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. Those jurisdictions established by Occupational Health and Safety Act include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands as defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.


The purpose of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) legislation is to protect workers against hazards on the job. Occupational Health and Safety Act or legislation outlines the general rights and responsibilities of the employer, the supervisor, and the worker. The law makes both the employee and the employer jointly responsible for workplace health and safety. Each of the Canadian provinces and the federal government have their own OH&S legislation. The details of the OH&S legislation vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another, but the essential elements are the same. There are 14 jurisdictions in Canada – one federal, ten provincial, and three territorial, each having its own occupational health and safety legislation.

Understanding the Occupational Safety And Health Act

As per OSHA standards, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace that does not have serious hazards and are mandated to follow all OSHA safety and health standards. OSHA’s Construction, General Industry, Maritime and Agriculture standards protect workers from a wide range of serious hazards. Examples of OSHA standards include requirements for employers to:

  • Improve fall protection
  • Prevent trenching cave-ins
  • Restrict exposure to some infectious diseases
  • Protect the workers who enter confined spaces
  • Eliminate exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Offer extra protection like guards on dangerous machines
  • Include safety equipment and respirators on the shop floor, and
  • Mandate training for certain dangerous jobs in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
understanding osha
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Enforcement plays an important part in OSHA’s efforts to reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. When OSHA finds any employers who failed to uphold their safety and health responsibilities, the non-compliance warrants inspection. These inspections are initiated without advance notice and are conducted using on-site or telephone and facsimile investigations. Performed by highly-trained compliance officers, these inspections are scheduled based on the following priorities:

  • Imminent danger
  • Catastrophes – fatalities or hospitalizations
  • Worker complaints and referrals
  • Targeted inspections – particular hazards, high
  • injury rates' and
  • Follow-up inspections
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Training is another integral part of Occupational Health and Safety Act guidelines. It acts as a tool that informs workers and managers about workplace hazards and controls so they can work more safely and be more productive. Training is also mandated as it provides workers and managers a better understanding of the safety and health program to contribute to its development and implementation. OSHA firmly believes that employee training, outreach, and education are essential to prevent work-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths. OSHA’s training requirement can be categorized into five sectors — General Industry, Maritime, Construction, Agriculture, and Federal Employee Programs. Some of the training programs and education material recommended by OSHA include:

  • Injury and Illness Prevention Programs
  • Educational Information
  • OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers
  • Worker Participation in Developing Training Programs

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Andre Perrault,
Manager, Health Safety & Environment
Altex Energy

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About the OSHA Act of 1970 US

In the year 1970, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job or about 38 workers every day. That year, the United States Congress and President Richard Nixon created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a national public health agency dedicated to the basic belief that no worker should have to battle between their life and their job. On December 29, 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) into law, bringing OSHA into effect. Coupled with the efforts of employers, workers, safety and health professionals, unions and advocates, OSHA and its state partners have dramatically improved workplace safety, reducing work-related fatalities by almost 63 percent. The OSHA law makes it clear that the right to a safe workplace is a fundamental human right. The rate of reported serious workplace injuries and illnesses has also dropped markedly, from 10.9 per 100 workers in 1972 to 2.8 per 100 workers in 2018.

Align with OSHA guidelines to implement and enhance the safety culture in your organization

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • There is a significant relationship between safety system practices and accident rates. Implementing an integrated QHSE system such as the one from ComplianceQuest can help predict worker engagement levels, which, in turn, has an impact on accident rates. The higher the engagement level, the better the safety and performance outcomes. To reduce accidents, safety systems must be built for employee engagement, collaboration, training, and upskilling.

  • The key advantages of offering a holistic and integrated approach to combining EHS and EQMS processes:

    • Robust Document Management is key to any organization. A next-generation document management system is critical to ensure your health and safety documents are up to date, organized, and easily accessible.

    • Automating your inspection, CAPA, equipment management, and audit management process will make the job of health and safety leaders a lot easier. Periodic audits, preventive maintenance of equipment, frequent inspections, and a data-driven approach to safety can be a game-changer.

    • An EHS system has two primary goals. One is obviously to meet all regulatory obligations. But, the second one is to drive a culture of safety across an organization. Safety is not expensive, it’s priceless.


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