Why Is OSHA Important?

by Julie Davoren; Updated September 26, 2017

Standards created by Occupational Safety and Health Administration lead to safer work environments. Before OSHA, national safety workplace standards didn’t exist, and employee injuries and deaths were common events. Created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA protects the safety and health of workers.

Ensures Safe Work Environment

OSHA develops, implements and enforces regulations for safety and health standards in the workplace. The agency issues standards and guidelines when it determines that a workplace is unsafe. The goal of these rules is to reduce injury and illness rates at work sites.

OSHA partners with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which was also created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. NIOSH researches and finds resolutions for large-scale workplace issues. NIOSH focuses on issues that include:

  • Hazardous environment
  • Chemical exposures
  • Contagious diseases

Inspects Workplaces for Compliance

According to the OSH Act, employers must maintain safe work environments, both at the main work site and at remote locations. Also, they must provide employees with tools that are in good condition and work properly. OSHA inspects workplaces to make sure employers remain compliant with these regulations.

Under OSHA regulations, all employers must report certain work-related injury and illness events. These include:

  • Fatalities
  • Hospitalizations
  • Amputations
  • Loss of an eye

Some employers must record and report all serious occupational injuries and illnesses, but many employers are partially exempt from this reporting requirement. For example, companies in the food services industry must maintain records, while those in accounting and payroll services don’t need to keep records.

Also, employers must inform employees of their rights, and they must post the OSHA poster in areas where employees can easily read the information for themselves. Employees can file reports with OSHA if their employer is noncompliant with OSHA standards; OSHA protects employees from retaliation if they report unsafe work environments.

Issues Citations and Penalties

OSHA issues citations and penalties when companies don’t follow OSHA standards. The agency issues citations in writing and gives the company time to correct the problem. The employer must place the citation near the place where the violation occurred.

Employers who repeatedly violate OSHA standards can receive fines up to $70,000 for each violation. The amount fined depends on the severity of the violation. For example, if a violation isn’t serious, OSHA might fine up to $7,000. If the employer doesn’t correct the problem in a timely manner, OSHA might issue an additional $7,000 fine for each day the violation remains unfixed.