What is the role of government in business? One important purpose of our government is workplace safety. In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed, forming the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This agency creates and enforces workplace safety standards. For example, employers have the responsibility to train employees on how to avoid injury, clearly indicate potentially dangerous items and actions, and record all injuries and illnesses. Workers are entitled to request inspections without employer retaliation and gain access to the results, among other rights.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act covers private sector employment, with special provisions for construction, agriculture, and shipyard work. While state and local government workers are not directly protected by OSHA, many regional governments adhere to State Occupational Safety and Health Plans. For more detail, peruse the the text of Title 29 on the OSHA website. You may also view a summary of workers’ rights and data and statistics by industry or accident.
Deaths and injuries in the farm industry unfortunately demonstrate the need to enforce safety standards. Grain bin entrapments, injuries, and deaths have recently received more media attention, spearheaded by National Public Radio (NPR). While OSHA levies fines on farm employers violating safety standards, some argue that this is paltry defense against systematically dangerous conditions and behaviors. For more information on the lives touched by grain bin deaths and the controversy, see NPR’s feature, Buried in Grain. For more information and a report on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, check out these resources: