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Job Safety and OSHA

Safety regulations in the United States have been enacted due to high injury and death rates in the workplace. Job safety laws have evolved through a period of over 250 years. Today job safety is overseen by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

Industrial Revolution

By the 1760s, brought on by the industrial revolution, factories contained machines, chemicals, and dust that led to unsafe working conditions and gruesome injuries. Massachusetts passed the first inspections law in 1877 requiring guarding of belts, shafts, and gears, protections on elevators, and adequate fire exits. That passage of the law set off a series of states following up with factory acts requiring machine guarding.


Shaft mining was hazardous. Mineworkers faced falling rocks, suffocation, and flooding. Children were often employed in mines. The first Federal mine safety act was passed in 1891. It prohibited hiring children under 12 years old and established minimum ventilation requirements in underground coal mines. In 1910, the Bureau of Mines was created to promote safety in mines after the deadly accident at Monongah, West Virginia, killed 362 miners in 1907.

National Safety Council (NSC)

The National Council for Industrial Safety was established in 1912. NSC was formed by a group of business owners to collect data and promote accident safety programs. In 1913, it became the National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization. The National Safety Council is a safety advocate that focuses on eliminating the leading causes of death.

Department of Labor (DOL)

The Bureau of Labor was first established under the Department of the Interior in 1884 and became an independent agency in 1888. In 1903, the department was moved to the Department of Commerce. In 1913, President William Howard Taft signed a law establishing the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce as separate agencies. The Department of Labor is responsible for work hours, pay, safety and health, unemployment, and employee pensions.

Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)

President Lyndon Johnson called for an overhaul of the Department of Labor for its inadequate standards and enforcement of laws in 1968, but the bill failed. In 1969, President Richard Nixon presented a bill promoting the efforts of private industry and state governments.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration was created by passing the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. President Nixon signed the act to create safe and healthy working standards. United States Department of Labor oversees OSHA.

OSHA Responsibilities

OSHA holds employers responsible for providing a workplace without serious hazards. Employers must follow OSHA safety and health standards. Standards are the rules that employers must to protect employees.

Employers have many responsibilities under OSHA.

  • Display the official OSHA Job Safety and Health – It’s the Law poster.
    • Provide safety training
    • Provide required personal protective equipment
    • Inform workers about chemical hazards
  • Eliminate or reduce hazards
    • Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
    • Perform tests in the workplace, required by OSHA
    • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests
    • Post OSHA citations and injury and illness data
    • Notify OSHA of a workplace fatality or work-related inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye (1-800-321-OSHA [6742])
    • Not retaliate against workers for using their rights under the law, including their right to report a work-related injury or illness
Safety Programs

The goal of safety programs is to “find and fix” problems proactively to prevent injuries and illness. Employers are responsible for tailoring the safety program to their business.

OSHA provides tools to implement safety programs that will meet standards, such as an example safety program, implementation checklist, self-evaluation tool, and audit tool.

OSHA also provides training materials such as publications, videos, and interactive Web-Based training through the resource center.  

Employers with questions can reach out to their local OSHA office. Twenty-two states operate OSHA-approved job and safety programs that meet or exceed OSHA standards.

Seven Core Elements

OSHA centers its programs around seven interrelated core elements which involve action items.

  • Management Leadership
  • Worker Participation
  • Hazard Identification and Assessment
  • Hazard Prevention and Control
  • Education and Training
  • Program Evaluation and Improvement
  • Communication and Coordination for Employers on Multiemployer Worksites

Crosswalk is a table that shows the relationship of the core elements from OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to existing standards.

The Summary of State Safety and Health Program Activities breaks down mandatory and voluntary state activities by Program or Plan, Safety Committee, Consultation/Training, Worker’s Compensation Premium Reduction, and Awards.

Toolbox Talks

Safety training implementation is ongoing, and toolbox talks are easy to incorporate into a safety program. A toolbox talk is a brief discussion on a safety subject or issue. Before starting a new project, hold a safety meeting to review risks and hazards. Toolbox talks throughout the project reinforce the basics, help prepare for high-risk situations, and help to keep employees informed of changing situations.

OSHA provides a list of safety and health topics, and state programs offer additional safety materials. For instance, Washington State provides a year’s worth of toolbox topics created for the construction industry, which includes an introduction and a guide for discussion for each topic.


OSHA provides free educational consultations to small and medium-sized businesses to help employers learn about workplace hazards and improve their safety programs. Safety consultations are voluntary and confidential. OSHA doesn’t assess or report citations and penalties during consultations. However, employer’s must agree to correct any issues found during the consultation.

Fall Safety

Since 2012, OHSA has held a National Safety Stand-Down in the first week of May. The National Safety Stand Down raises awareness of falls, the leading cause of death in the construction industry and the most frequently OSHA standard cited for violations. A Safety Stand Down is voluntary, and anyone can participate.  It can be a one-time event or incorporate events throughout the week.


OSHA Form 301, Injury and Illness Incident Report, must be completed within seven days to record single incidents.

Form 300, OSHA’s Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, is required for most businesses to maintain. Employers in states with State Plans may be exempt from using Form 300 but may have other reporting requirements and forms.

The Summary (Form 300A) is posted visibly for employees to view at the end of the year.

OSHA requires employers to report fatalities within 8 hours. An inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours.

Jobsite Safety Meeting with Walk Around Inspection

Speaking of safety, does your safety program have a form for a Jobsite safety meeting? Implement Jobsite meetings and document them on the Jobsite Safety Meeting with Walk-Around Inspection form. For construction companies in Washington State, you must conduct walk-around safety inspections and document them. See WAC  296-155-110

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