OSHA is the acronym for Occupational Safety and Health Administration and was created as a result of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor and covers businesses and their workers either directly through federal OSHA or a state approved OSHA program. The goal of OSHA is to protect workers within the workplace by setting and enforcing standards, providing training and assistance to businesses within the United States.
Consensus standards are put together by industry-wide standard developing organizations. OSHA has put into practice the standards of the two primary standards groups recognized within the United States–American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Examples of standards OSHA has put into practice include the standard for construction of eye protection–safety glasses (ANSI) and standard for Flammable and Combustible Liquids from (NFPA).
Proprietary standards are determined for OSHA by professional experts within specific professional societies, associations or industries. All proprietary standards are decided with a straight membership vote, not by consensus. An example of a proprietary standard is the standard for Safe Handling of Compressed Gas Cylinders adopted from the Compressed Gas Association (CGA).
The majority of standards enforced by OSHA are called horizontal standards, recognized as a general standard. This means that this standard applies to any employer in any industry. Examples of horizontal standards are those enforced where it applies to working surfaces, fire protection and first aid within the workplace.
Vertical standards are not considered general because they only apply to specific industries. Vertical standards are often referred to as particular standards. Examples of vertical standards are those applying to the longshore industry and the construction industry.
Preexisting Federal Laws
Some federal laws that are preexisting are enforced by OSHA. These preexisting laws include but are not limited to Federal Supply Contracts Act (Walsh-Healey), Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (Construction Safety Act), and the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act.
General Duty Clause
Where OSHA has not set a standard, employers are responsible for following the general duty clause that was put into place by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The general duty clause is extremely broad and requires that a workplace is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
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