Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (the Act) was enacted to ensure that employers provide employees with a workplace free from unsafe working conditions. The law defines an employer as any “person engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the United States or any state or political subdivision of a State.”  The Act does not cover: (i) self-employed persons; (ii) farms which employ only immediate members of the farmer’s family; (iii) working conditions for which other federal agencies, operating under the authority of other federal laws, regulate worker safety; and (iv) employees of state and local governments, unless they are in one of the states operating an OSHA-approved state plan.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which enforces the Act, has the authority to both set and enforce workplace health and safety standards.  Often, OSHA conducts inspections to ensure that employers are providing safe and healthy workplaces, and may require that employers adopt certain practices, means, methods, or processes reasonably necessary and appropriate to protect workers on the job.

Employees have the right to file a complaint with OSHA regarding safety and health conditions in their workplace and to participate in OSHA’s workplace inspections.  Employers may be subject to substantial penalties by OSHA for serious workplace violations.