Occupational Health and Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 U.S.C. 651 et seq. (1970) is the federal law that “assure[s] so far as possible every working man and woman … safe and healthful working conditions.” The Act is administered by the correlative federal agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

OSHA applies to all private sector employers engaged in any business affecting commerce (which, by way of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution [Art. I, Sec. 8], Congress derived its authority to exercise OSHA control over states). OSHA does not apply to public sector employees.

Employers with fewer than ten employees are exempt from some of OSHA’s record-keeping requirements, as well as some of OSHA’s penalties and enforcement measures. However, small employers must still comply with OSHA standards and provide a safe workplace for their employees.

The following are not covered by the OSH Act:

  • Self-employed persons
  • Farms at which only family members work
  • Public sector employees (unless they are included in a State OSHA-approved plan)
  • Those working conditions regulated by other federal agencies under other statutes. Examples include workplaces in the mining industry, nuclear energy and nuclear weapons industry, and much of the transportation industry.

Inside Occupational Health and Safety