Demystifying OSHA: A Complete Guide to Occupational Safety Regulations in the US

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known as OSHA, exists to achieve a simple goal: safe workplaces across the United States of America. To this end, the organization is constantly at work providing training, outreach, education, and aid to employers and ensuring that they comply with all applicable OSHA standards in their industries. This is our brief guide to those regulations and how they keep employees safe and healthy.

The History of OSHA and Workers’ Rights

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was put in place to protect workers from harm while on the job. With its creation, laws were enacted to ensure that employees enjoy work conditions that are as risk-free as possible.

The act also created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is an organization that enforces and facilitates the application of protective workplace safety and health standards. It also provides information, assistance, and training to workers and employers, ensuring that they understand how to—and are equipped to—create safe workplaces.

Importantly, OSHA also gives workers explicit rights in an effort to make the workplace a safer place. With OSHA, workers can expect:

  • To get training and information pertaining to hazards, and to be taught methods of minimizing the likelihood of harm, in language they can understand;

  • To be witness to any testing completed in an effort to find any hazards in their workplace and receive the test results;

  • A review of any records regarding work-related injuries and illnesses;

  • To obtain their medical record copies;

  • To be able to ask OSHA for an inspection of their workplace; and

  • To utilize their rights under the act without any sort of retaliation or discrimination.

osha safety regulations construction workers working on construction site

OSHA Safety Regulations Training Requirements

OSHA’s training requirements cover a wide variety of jobs. The organization separates industries into a range of categories, which include General Industry, Maritime, Construction, Agriculture, and Federal Employee Programs.

Within these categories, OSHA identifies unique aspects of each industry in an effort to provide relevant regulations. The organization also develops specific types of training in accordance with the needs of each industry. These are a few of the programs and areas of responsibility.

Injury and Illness Prevention Programs

With these programs, OSHA provides training and education to prevent injuries and illnesses. In turn, the programs help employers find and resolve workplace hazards before workers get hurt, rather than afterward.

Prevention programs reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses. As a result, employers reduce their costs.

Thousands of employers throughout the nation are currently incorporating injury and illness prevention programs into their schedules. OSHA’s goal is to get all employers to commit to the same level of prevention. There are thirty-four states either requiring or providing voluntary guidelines for these kinds of programs.

Educational Information

osha safety regulations aerial lift fall protection

OSHA provides many educational materials, including options in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and several other languages. These are available in print or online.

As part of its dedication to educating employers and employees, OSHA publishes or otherwise provides content including:

  • Brochures/booklets

  • Fact sheets

  • Guidance documents providing in-depth examinations showcasing particular safety- and health-related problems

  • Online safety and health topics pages

  • Posters

  • Small, laminated QuickCards™ offering brief safety- and health-related information

To keep up to date with OSHA’s most recent news and information, workers and employers can sign up for QuickTakes, a free, twice-monthly online newsletter containing the latest OSHA initiatives that teach employers and workers about finding and preventing workplace hazards.

OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers

OSHA operates authorized nonprofit OTI Education Centers, which provide occupational safety and health training to employers, supervisors, and workers. The centers provide courses and seminars covering safety and health topics. They are also responsible for providing training relating to other safety and health programs.

Worker Participation in Developing Training Programs

When workers participate in developing these programs, they’re furthering the cause of on-the-job safety by improving systems put in place by employers.  Workers can spot missing safety procedures and push recommendations for change to assist in ensuring workplace safety.

Ensuring Compliance with OSHA’s Safety Training Requirements

There are various requirements spread across different industries. To comply with OSHA safety regulations for their industry, employers will need to educate themselves about the specific standards OSHA has in place for them.

Companies operating in states with an OSHA-approved state plan must adhere to the state-level standards. Simply complying with the federal plan is not enough for a company to avoid fines and penalties.

This brings us to...

States With Plans Differing From U.S. Federal Plans

As of right now, these are the 28 states or territories with OSHA-approved state plans: 


The following are states with OSHA-approved state plans focused solely on covering state and local government workers:


While some state plans are the same as federal plans, the main difference is that the state enforces them. Typically, state standards are stricter than federal OSHA standards or focus on areas that federal OSHA overlooks.

Recent OSHA Regulatory Action

The Trump administration has cut OSHA’s regulatory scope by more than 50%. Since 2016, 469 proposed federal regulations have been withdrawn. Also, a total of 391 federal regulations have been reclassified as “inactive” or “long-term” to make room for further careful review.

An Executive Order was signed by President Donald Trump on Jan. 30, 2017. This stated that federal agencies had to cut two regulations for each new one being with a proposed cost of higher than $100 million.

By Feb. 8, 2017,  advocacy groups The National Resources Defense Council, Communications Workers of America, and Public Citizen had filed a lawsuit in opposition to the executive order. They claim that this order “directs federal agencies to engage in unlawful actions that will harm countless Americans.”

The potential effect of these changes is huge, and it’s easy to see why several organizations are working to combat the Trump administration’s moves. Many workplace issues and injuries could arise as a result of the amendments to OSHA’s regulations.

Final Thoughts

Despite the recent move towards deregulation, health and safety in the workplace are hugely important for both the well-being of workers and the financial bottom line. If you have any questions about OSHA, the professionals at SafetyTek can show you how to navigate the (often technical and confusing) jargon of the organization and its regulations! Contact us or leave us a reply with any questions about OSHA safety regulations and streamlining your safety management.

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