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Frequently Asked Questions

About OSHA

Federal OSHA is a small agency; with our state partners we have approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers, employed at more than 8 million worksites around the nation - which translates to about one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.

You can research your employer's inspection history through OSHA's Establishment Search. Type in the name of your company and choose the dates you want to cover.

The maximum penalty OSHA can assess, regardless of the circumstances, is $7,000 for each serious violation and $70,000 for a repeated or willful violation. OSHA's penalty policy, including minimums, maximums and factors considered when assessing the penalty, can be found in Chapter Six, page 151, of the Field Operations Manual (PDF*).

OSHA's Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Program recognizes private sector organizations as NRTLs, authorized to determine that specific equipment and materials ("products") meet safety requirements in OSHA standards.

A list of Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories and additional OSHA information can be found on OSHA's web page for NRTLs.

Workers' Rights

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 that workers can understand;
  • Receive copies of the results from tests and monitoring done to find and measure hazards in their workplace;
  • Review copies of records of work-related injuries and illnesses that occur in their workplace;
  • Receive copies of their workplace medical records;
  • File a confidential complaint with OSHA to have their workplace inspected;
  • Participate in an OSHA inspection and speak in private with the inspector;
  • File a complaint with OSHA if they have been retaliated or discriminated against by their employer as the result of requesting an inspection or using any of their other rights under the OSH Act; and
  • File a complaint if punished or discriminated against for acting as a "whistleblower" under the 21 additional federal laws for which OSHA has jurisdiction.

See OSHA's Workers' Rights page for more information.

OSHA provides a variety of educational materials and resources, including publications on worker rights, employer responsibilities, All about OSHA, job hazards, and means of prevention. See OSHA's Publications page for a complete listing of available materials or to order publications online. OSHA also maintains Safety and Health Topics pages about specific workplace hazards as well as individual industries. Also available are training materials produced by grantees of a Susan Harwood Training Grant.

Employers cannot refuse to allow employees to drink water or require employees to pay for water that is provided. However, employees may not consume beverages (including water) in a toilet room or in any area exposed to a toxic material.

OSHA's Sanitation standard states that "potable water shall be provided in all places of employment, for drinking, washing of the person, cooking, washing of foods, washing of cooking or eating utensils, washing of food preparation or processing premises, and personal service rooms." See OSHA's Sanitation standard for more

To help ensure that workers are free to participate in safety and health activities, Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits any person from discharging or in any manner retaliating or discriminating against any worker for exercising rights under the Act. These rights include raising safety and health concerns with an employer, reporting a work-related injury or illness, filing a complaint with OSHA, seeking an OSHA inspection, participating in an OSHA inspection and participating or testifying in any proceeding related to an OSHA inspection.

Protection from discrimination means that an employer cannot retaliate by taking "adverse action" against workers, such as:

  • Firing or laying off;
  • Blacklisting;
  • Demoting;
  • Denying overtime or promotion;
  • Disciplining;
  • Denying of benefits;
  • Failing to hire or rehire;
  • Intimidation;
  • Making threats;
  • Reassignment affecting prospects for promotion; or
  • Reducing pay or hours

See OSHA's Whistleblower Protection page for more information.

Often the best and fastest way to get a hazard corrected is to notify a supervisor or employer.

Workers, or their representatives, may file a complaint and ask OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or their employer is not following OSHA standards. A worker can tell OSHA not to let an employer know who filed the complaint. It is against the OSH 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.

You can file a complaint online; download the form [en espanol*] and mail or fax it to the nearest OSHA office; or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Written, signed complaints submitted to OSHA area offices are more likely to result in an on-site OSHA inspection. Most online or unsigned complaints are resolved informally over the phone with the employer. Complaints from workers in states with an OSHA-approved state plan will be forwarded to the appropriate state plan for response.

Workers have the right to participate in an OSHA inspection and speak in private with the inspector.

Where there is no union or employee representative, the OSHA inspector must talk confidentially with a reasonable number of workers during the course of the investigation.

An inspector who finds violations of OSHA standards or serious hazards may issue citations and fines. A citation includes the methods an employer must use to fix a problem and the date by when the corrective actions must be completed. Workers only have the right to challenge the deadline for when a problem must be resolved. Employers, on the other hand, have the right to contest whether there is a violation or any other part of the citation. Workers or their representatives must notify OSHA that they want to be involved in the appeals process if the employer challenges a citation.

If you send in a complaint requesting an OSHA inspection, you have the right to find out the results of the OSHA inspection and request a review if OSHA decides not to issue citations.

See OSHA's Workers' Rights page for more information.

The OSH Act covers most private sector employers and their workers, in addition to some public sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. OSHA covers most private sector employers and their workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state program. Workers at state and local government agencies are not covered by Federal OSHA, but have OSH Act protections if they work in those states that have an OSHA-approved state program. Four additional states and one U.S. territory have OSHA-approved plans that cover public sector workers only. State-run health and safety programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program. To find the contact information for the OSHA Federal or State Program office nearest you, see the Regional and Area Offices map.

Those not covered by the OSH Act include: self-employed workers, immediate family members of farm employers, and workers whose hazards are regulated by another federal agency (for example, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Energy, Federal Aviation Administration, or Coast Guard).

OSHA's Sanitation standard requires that employers make toilet facilities available so that employees can use them when they need to. The employer may not impose unreasonable restrictions on employee use of the facilities.

For more information, see:

For Employers

OSHA has compliance assistance specialists throughout the nation located in most OSHA offices. Compliance assistance specialists can provide information to employers and workers about OSHA standards, short educational programs on specific hazards or OSHA rights and responsibilities, and information on additional compliance assistance resources. For more details, visit OSHA's Compliance Assistance page or call 1-800-321-OSHA [6742] to contact your local OSHA office.

OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. Each year, responding to requests from small employers looking to create or improve their safety and health management programs, OSHA's On-site Consultation Program conducts over 29,000 visits to small business worksites covering over 1.5 million workers across the nation.

On-site consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management programs. For more information, to find the local On-site Consultation office in your state, or to request a brochure on Consultation Services, visit OSHA's On-Site Consultation page, or call 1-800-321-OSHA [6742].

All covered employers are required to prominently display the official OSHA "Job Safety and Health - It's the Law" poster that describes rights and responsibilities under the OSH Act. Federal government agencies must use the Federal Agency Poster. Employers do not need to replace previous versions of the poster. The OSHA poster (OSHA 3165) is available for free from the OSHA Office of Publications. To download or order the free poster, visit OSHA's Publications page. Clicking "order now" will place the item in a virtual cart on the right hand side of the screen.

More information about the OSHA poster.

Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers MUST provide their workers with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and must follow all OSHA safety and health standards. Employers must find and correct safety and health problems. OSHA further requires that employers must first try to eliminate or reduce hazards by making feasible changes in working conditions rather than relying on personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, or earplugs. Switching to safer chemicals, enclosing processes to trap harmful fumes, or using ventilation systems to clean the air are examples of effective ways to eliminate or reduce risks.

For more information, see the Employer Responsibilities page.

Injury and Illness Recordkeeping

No, you only record the injury or illness once, and on the OSHA 300 Log the days away are counted toward the calendar year in which the incident occurred. If the employee is still away from work because of the injury or illness when you prepare the annual summary, estimate the total number of calendar days you expect the employee to be away from work, use this number to calculate the total for the annual summary, and then update the initial log entry later when the day count is known or reaches the 180-day cap. For additional questions, see OSHA's Recordkeeping page.

Information on OSHA's recordkeeping requirements can be found on OSHA's Recordkeeping page.

Recordkeeping forms are also available.

When an injury or illness involves one or more days away from work, you must record the injury or illness on the OSHA 300 Log with a check mark in the space for cases involving days away and an entry of the number of calendar days away from work in the number of days column. If the employee is out for an extended period of time, you must enter an estimate of the days that the employee will be away, and update the day count when the actual number of days is known. 1904.7(b)(3)(ix)

An average of 13 Americans are killed on the job every single day of the year. In addition, tens of thousands die every year from workplace disease and nearly 4 million workers each year are seriously injured on the job.

Please see OSHA's Workplace Injury, Illness and Fatality Statistics page for data by state, industry and demographic. Links to the Bureau of Labor Statistics are also available.

You are not required to send your completed forms to OSHA. You must retain the forms at your establishment for five years after the reference year of the records.

Workers' Compensation determinations do not impact OSHA recordability. The employer must evaluate the employee's work duties and the work environment to decide whether an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition. If so, the case is work-related.

If the contractor's employee is under the day-to-day supervision of the contractor, the contractor is responsible for recording the injury or illness. If you supervise the contractor employee's work on a day-to-day basis, you must record the injury or illness.

Yes, surgical glues are considered medical treatment for OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping purposes. For additional information, see OSHA's Recordkeeping page.

Yes, this is a recordable case. The parking lot is considered part of the establishment and thus the work environment. Punching in/out on a time clock does not determine work relatedness. The bee sting is considered a work related injury and the employee was administered a prescription, which is medical treatment. For additional information, see OSHA's Recordkeeping page.

OSHA Regulations

OSHA standards are rules that describe the methods that employers must use to protect their employees from hazards. There are OSHA standards for Construction work, Maritime operations, Agriculture, and General Industry, which is the set that applies to most worksites. Examples of OSHA standards include requirements for employers to:

  • provide fall protection;
  • prevent trenching cave-ins;
  • prevent exposure to some infectious diseases;
  • ensure the safety of workers who enter confined spaces;
  • prevent exposure to harmful chemicals;
  • put guards on dangerous machines;
  • provide respirators or other safety equipment; and
  • provide training for certain dangerous jobs in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.

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.

Safety and Health Hazards

You can get information on health and safety hazards in the workplace either by searching the health and safety topics pages on OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/index.html by topic or by looking up specific hazards in our A-Z index (www.osha.gov/html/a-z-index.html).

OSHA maintains a list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards across all industries. For more information about the top 10 most frequently cited standards, visit http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/frequent_standards.html.

You can also search for commonly cited workplace hazards with your employer's Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code. Once you know your four-digit code, visit OSHA's Frequently Cited OSHA Standards page, enter your SIC code and view the information for last year.

Bloodborne Pathogens

After a work-related needlestick or other exposure incident, the employer must make available a post-exposure evaluation and follow-up at no cost to the worker. This includes documenting the route(s) of exposure and the circumstances under which the exposure occurred; identifying and testing the source individual, if known, unless the employer can establish that identification is not feasible or is prohibited by state or local law. The source individual's blood must be tested as soon as feasible, after consent is obtained, in order to determine HIV and HBV infectivity. The information on the source individual's HIV and HBV testing must be provided to the evaluating healthcare professional and to the exposed employee. Other frequently asked questions concerning the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard have been prepared by OSHA and are available on OSHA's webpage.

For further information on this subject, please see OSHA's safety and health topics page on bloodborne pathogens and needlestick prevention at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/bloodbornepathogens/index.html.

Cold Weather Hazards

Thank you for your inquiry to OSHA concerning cold stress. You can find the information you requested in the OSHA resources listed below. Prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures may cause serious health problems such as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. In extreme cases, including cold water immersion, exposure can lead to death.

Although there is not a particular standard for cold stress, the following links provide information for protecting workers in cold environments:

Emergency Preparedness Guide on Cold Stress: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/guides/cold.html

Tips to protect workers in cold environments: http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/cold_weather_prep.html

Emergency preparedness guide on winter storms: http://www.osha.gov//dts/weather/winter_weather/hazards_precautions.html

Thank you for your inquiry to OSHA concerning cold temperatures in an indoor workplace. You can find the information you requested in the OSHA resources listed below. As a general rule, office temperature and humidity are matters of human comfort. OSHA has no regulations specifically addressing temperature and humidity in an office setting. However, Section III, Chapter 2, Subsection V of the OSHA Technical Manual, "Recommendations for the Employer," provides engineering and administrative guidance to prevent or alleviate indoor air quality problems. Air treatment is defined under the engineering recommendations as, "the removal of air contaminants and/or the control of room temperature and humidity." OSHA recommends temperature control in the range of 68-76° F and humidity control in the range of 20%-60%. Please see the following: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=24602

You may also wish to view some other resources related to cold stress: Safety and Health Guide for Cold Stress: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/guides/cold.html

For additional information on Indoor Air Quality, refer to OSHA's Safety and Health Topics' Indoor Air Quality pages at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/indoorairquality/index.html and http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/indoorairquality/faqs.html

Additional guidance is provided in the OSHA publication, Indoor Air Quality in Commercial and Institutional Buildings Guidance at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/3430indoor-air-quality-sm.pdf* and from the OSHA Technical Manual - http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iii/otm_iii_2.html#5

Ergonomic/Musculoskeletal Disorders

OSHA information on ergonomics or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) can be found on OSHA's Ergonomics web page.

Flu

For information about how to reduce the spread of the flu in workplaces, visit OSHA's Flu page.

Hazard Communication

HAZWOPER

The Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) applies to five distinct groups of employers and their employees. This includes any employees who are exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous substances -- including hazardous waste -- and who are engaged in one of the following operations as specified by 1910.120(a)(1)(i-v) and 1926.65(a)(1)(i-v):

  • cleanup operations -- required by a governmental body, whether federal, state, local, or other involving hazardous substances -- that are conducted at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites;
  • corrective actions involving cleanup operations at sites covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) as amended (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.);
  • voluntary cleanup operations at sites recognized by federal, state, local, or other governmental body as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites;
  • operations involving hazardous wastes that are conducted at treatment, storage, and disposal facilities regulated by Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 264 and 265 pursuant to RCRA, or by agencies under agreement with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement RCRA regulations; and
  • emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of release of, hazardous substances regardless of the location of the hazard.

For more information, see OSHA's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the HAZWOPER standard.

Indoor Air Quality

The qualities of good IAQ should include comfortable temperature and humidity, adequate supply of fresh outdoor air, and control of pollutants from inside and outside of the building. Additional guidance is provided in the OSHA publication, Indoor Air Quality in Commercial and Institutional Buildings.*

For further information on this subject, please see OSHA's safety and health topics page on indoor air quality at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/indoorairquality/index.html.

Respirators

A fit test is a method used to select the right size respirator for the user. Fit testing of all negative or positive pressure tight-fitting facepiece respirators is required prior to initial use, whenever a different respirator facepiece is used, and at least annually thereafter. An additional fit test is required whenever there are changes in the user's physical condition that could affect respirator fit (e.g., facial scarring, dental changes, cosmetic surgery, or an obvious change in body weight). The employee must be fit tested with the same make, model, style, and size of respirator that will be used. Other frequently asked questions concerning respiratory protection have been prepared by OSHA and are available on OSHA's webpage.

For further information on this subject, please see OSHA's safety and health topics page on respiratory protection at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/respiratoryprotection/index.html.

Wages/Benefits/Workers' Comp

If you have a question about payment or wages, contact the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division by calling 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243) or visiting www.dol.gov/whd.

Workers' compensation (for non-Federal workers) is a state-run program. For individuals injured on the job while employed by private companies or state and local government agencies, contact your state workers' compensation board. Information on workers' compensation for Federal workers is available at www.dol.gov/owcp.


* Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

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