Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)


The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) establishes a system of laws to promote and regulate workplace safety. It also created the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency operated under the authority of the Department of Labor (DOL). OSHA is responsible for developing, promoting, and enforcing regulations that fulfill the purpose of the OSH Act.

OSHA fulfills its enforcement obligations in two ways. First, it enforces the OSH Act’s general duty clause. That clause states that an employer “shall furnish to each of its employees conditions of employment and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious injury or harm to its employees.” Second, OSHA enforces regulations which require employers to undertake specific safety and health precautions.



Monetary penalties for OSHA violations are as follows:

  • Other than serious violations – up to $7,000
  • Serious violations – up to $7,000
  • Willful violations – up to $70,000
  • Repeated violations – up to $70,000
  • Failure to abate – up to $7,000 per day

OSHA will reduce these penalties depending on the circumstances surrounding the violation.

The OSH Act, in addition to creating OSHA, also granted states the right to assume some or all of the responsibility to regulate workplace safety and health within their boundaries. Currently, 25 states exercise some level control over occupational safety and health in their states. Twenty-one states have assumed complete responsibility for occupational safety and health within their borders.

The following is a list of the states that have assumed some or total control over workplace
safety and health.

AlaskaKentuckyOregon
ArizonaMarylandSouth Carolina
Arkansas*MichiganTennessee
CaliforniaMinnesotaUtah
District of ColumbiaNevadaVermont
Connecticut*New Jersey*Virginia
HawaiiNew MexicoWashington
IndianaNew York*Wyoming
IowaNorth Carolina

*States that have only assumed partial responsibility for occupational safety and health. This partial assumption of responsibility is generally extended only to state and local public sector workplaces.

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