OSHA Rights

Rights to a Safe Workplace under OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHAct) was enacted to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires that employers provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training and assistance to workers and employers. Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or there are serious hazards.

Workers' rights under the OSH Act

Workers are entitled to working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm. To help assure a safe and healthful workplace, OSHA also provides workers with the right to:

  • Receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace. The training must be in a language you can understand;
  • Observe testing that is done to find hazards in the workplace and get test results;
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses;
  • Get copies of their medical records;
  • Request OSHA to inspect their workplace; and
  • Use their rights under the law free from retaliation and discrimination.
  • Self employed
  • Immediate family members of farm employers that do not employ outside employees; and
  • Workers who are protected by another Federal agency (for example the Mine Safety and Health Administration, FAA or U.S. Coast Guard).

Employers must also comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards. This clause is generally cited when no OSHA standard applies to the hazard.

Employees have a responsibility to keep their workers safe by law. It is against the Act for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or discriminate in any way against a worker for filing a complaint or using other OSHA rights. Workers, or their representatives, can contact OSHA to request an inspection of their workplace or to file a complaint against their employer for failing to comply with OSHA requirements. Workers cannot be punished for using their OSHA rights. If you have been discriminated against for using your OSHA rights, you may file a complaint to OSHA within 30 days of the act.

Employees have a responsibility to keep their workers safe by law. It is against the Act for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or discriminate in any way against a worker for filing a complaint or using other OSHA rights. Workers, or their representatives, can contact OSHA to request an inspection of their workplace or to file a complaint against their employer for failing to comply with OSHA requirements. Workers cannot be punished for using their OSHA rights. If you have been discriminated against for using your OSHA rights, you may file a complaint to OSHA within 30 days of the act.

  • Inform employees about hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets and other methods.
  • Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards.
  • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
  • Post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and the OSHA poster in the workplace where workers will see them.
  • Notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace incident in which there is a death or three or more workers go to a hospital.
  • Not discriminate or retaliate against an employee for using their rights under the law.

Who OSHA covers

If your workplace does not answer directly to OSHA, it must at least answer to the standards created by OSHA. Private sector employers and employees are governed by OSHA in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories either through federal OSHA or OSHA-approved state programs. OSHA approved health and safety programs must be at least as effective as the federal OSHA program. In Pennsylvania, private sector employees and most federal employees are covered by the federal OSHA program. New Jersey operates its own OSHA-approved state program.

State and Local Government Workers

Employees who work for state and local governments are not covered by federal OSHA, but have OSHA protections if they work in those states that have an OSHA-approved state program.

Federal Government Workers

Federal agencies must have a safety and health program that meet the same standards as private employers. OSHA monitors federal agencies and responds to workers' complaints.

Who is not covered by the OSH Act

  • Self employed
  • Immediate family members of farm employers that do not employ outside employees; and
  • Workers who are protected by another Federal agency (for example the Mine Safety and Health Administration, FAA or U.S. Coast Guard).

OSHA Standards: Protection on the Job

OSHA-provided rules or standards describe methods employers must use to protect their employees from hazards. The standards for Construction work, Maritime operations, and General Industry are the rules that apply to most worksites. These standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to, require the use of certain safe practices and equipment, and require employers to monitor hazards and keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses. Examples of OSHA standards also include requirements to: provide fall protection, prevent trenching cave ins, prevent infectious diseases, assure that workers safely enter confined spaces, prevent exposure to harmful substances like asbestos, put guards on machines, provide respirators or other safety equipment, and provide training for certain dangerous jobs.

Employers Must:

  • Inform employees about hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets and other methods.
  • Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards.
  • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
  • Post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and the OSHA poster in the workplace where workers will see them.
  • Notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace incident in which there is a death or three or more workers go to a hospital.
  • Not discriminate or retaliate against an employee for using their rights under the law.