The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Web site is www.osha.gov. The mission of OSHA is to save lives, prevent injuries and protect the health of U.S. workers. To accomplish this, federal and state governments must work in partnership with the more than 100 million working men and women and their six and a half million employers who are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
OSHA and its state partners have approximately 2,100 inspectors, plus complaint discrimination investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standards writers, and other technical and support personnel spread throughout more than 200 offices across the country. This staff establishes protective standards, enforces those standards, and reaches out to employers and employees through technical assistance and consultation programs.
Nearly every working man and woman in the nation comes under OSHA's jurisdiction (with some exceptions, such as miners, transportation workers, many public employees, and the self-employed). Other users and recipients of OSHA services include: occupational safety and health professionals, the academic community, lawyers, journalists, and personnel of other government entities.
The U.S. Department of Labor's online Employment Law Guide: Laws, Regulations, and Technical Assistance Services is offered as a public resource. "It does not create new legal obligations and it is not a substitute for the U.S. Code, Federal Register, and Code of Federal Regulations as the official sources of applicable law. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is complete and accurate as of the time of publication and this will continue. Later versions of this guide will be offered at www.dol.gov/compliance or by calling DOL's toll-free service at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365).
State OSHA Organizations
State OSHA organizations are not just about enforcement! State OSHA organizations can provide consultation services on workplace safety.
OSH Act 1970
Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act) encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs. OSHA approves and monitors state plans and provides up to 50 percent of an approved plan's operating costs.
There are currently 22 states and jurisdictions operating complete state plans (covering both the private sector and state and local government employees) and four — Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and the Virgin Islands?that cover public employees only. (Eight other states were approved at one time but subsequently withdrew their programs).
States must set job safety and health standards that are "at least as effective as" comparable federal standards. (Most states adopt standards identical to federal ones.) States have the option to promulgate standards covering hazards not addressed by federal standards.
A state must conduct inspections to enforce its standards, cover public (state and local government) employees, and operate occupational safety and health training and education programs. In addition, most states provide free on-site consultation to help employers identify and correct workplace hazards. Such consultation may be provided either under the plan or through a special agreement under section 21(d) of the Act.
To gain OSHA approval for a "developmental plan," the first step in the state plan process, a state must assure OSHA that within three years it will have in place all the structural elements necessary for an effective occupational safety and health program. These elements include: appropriate legislation; regulations and procedures for standards setting, enforcement, appeal of citations and penalties; and a sufficient number of qualified enforcement personnel.
Once a state has completed and documented all its developmental steps, it is eligible for certification. Certification renders no judgment as to actual state performance, but merely attests to the structural completeness of the plan.
At any time after initial plan approval, when it appears that the state is capable of independently enforcing standards, OSHA may enter into an "operational status agreement" with the state. This commits OSHA to suspend the exercise of discretionary federal enforcement in all or certain activities covered by the state plan.
The ultimate accreditation of a state's plan is called "final approval." When OSHA grants final approval to a state under section 18 (e) of the act, it relinquishes its authority to cover occupational safety and health matters covered by the state. After at least one year following certification, the state becomes eligible for final approval if OSHA determines that it is providing, in actual operation, worker protection "at least as effective" as the protection provided by the federal program. The state also must meet 100 percent of the established compliance staffing levels (benchmarks) and participate in OSHA's computerized inspection data system before OSHA can grant final approval.
Employees finding workplace-safety and health hazards may file a formal complaint with the appropriate plan state or with the appropriate OSHA regional administrator. Complaints will be investigated and should include the name of the workplace, type(s) of hazard(s) observed and any other pertinent information.
Anyone finding inadequacies or other problems in the administration of a state program may file a Complaint About State Program Administration (CASPA) with the appropriate OSHA regional administrator as well. The complainant's name is kept confidential. OSHA investigates all such complaints, and where complaints are found to be valid, requires appropriate corrective action on the part of the state.
For example, in the state of California, Cal/OSHA Consultation is a free confidential and non-adversarial resource for the job site safety and health needs of California employers and their employees. The Consultation Service gives compliance assistance, helps improve injury and illness prevention programs, conducts seminars, and distributes an extensive list of published information. The service assesses areas where improvement is needed, and works with employers, employees and workers' compensation insurance companies to address them.