Occupational Safety and Health Act

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is a federal law enacted in 1970 to improve safety in the workplace. Before OSHA, employees had only the common law (general principles of personal injury/torts law, contract law, and the like) to protect them from injuries in the workplace. The act creates both specific and general standards for employers to follow. It imposes two requirements on employers:

· compliance requirements—employers must comply with all of the safety and health standards dictated by the Department of Labor

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· general duty clause—employers must furnish to each employee a job and workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm

OSHA is enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency within the Department of Labor. Approximately 25 states have similar agencies and act as a partner with the federal OSHA. The act is enforced through inspections of the workplace by compliance officers following a complaint, a grievance, or reports of fatal or multiple accidents. In certain high-risk industries, routine inspections regularly are conducted. All inspections are conducted without notice.

An antiretaliation clause protects workers who notify OSHA of hazardous conditions. Penalties and abatement orders are assessed in connection with a violation.


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