Who Does OSHA Apply To?

by Jackie Lohrey; Updated September 26, 2017

Occupational Safety and Health regulations apply to most employers in the United States, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Federal OSHA regulations apply to private sector employers and the U.S. Postal Service. State-mandated health and safety regulations apply to state and local government employers in states that run an OSHA-approved program. As of publication date, this includes Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and the Virgin Islands.

OSHA Jurisdiction

In truth, unless you're a sole proprietor or a family farming operation that employs only immediate family members, OSHA regulations apply to your business. Even a company in a low-hazard industry or a small business in which the “rule of 10” applies isn’t completely exempt from OSHA regulations.

The “rule of 10” applies to employers with 10 or fewer employees in the entire organization. It does not exempt employers from following OSHA regulations, but does provide exemptions from recordkeeping and some inspection requirements. For example, OSHA will neither require an exempt employer to maintain an injury and illness log nor conduct safety inspections. However, the exemption does not extend to reporting requirements. An exempt employer must report any work-related incident that results in a fatality or the hospitalization of three or more employees within eight hours of its occurrence.

General and Industry-specific Rules

The goal of OSHA regulations is to ensure that every covered business maintains a safe and healthy work environment. To achieve this, OSHA establishes rules that apply to all businesses as well as rules that apply to employers in specific industries.

The general duty clause, which applies to all covered employers, says that employers must maintain a workplace free of serious known hazards.

Three different sets of standards apply to businesses in the construction, agriculture and maritime industries, and one additional set applies to all businesses in other industries. Although specific regulations vary by industry, all address and limit hazardous chemical exposure, and require that employers implement safe business practices and use safety equipment. Examples include requirements to

  • provide fall protection
  • take steps to prevent certain infectious diseases
  • prevent exposure to harmful substances
  • install safety guards on equipment machines
  • provide safety equipment such as respirators, gloves and eyewash stations
  • implement employee safety training

About the Author

Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.