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The Most Important Health and Safety Laws on the Books

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on October 20, 2020 at 5:46 PM

The U.S. Department of Labor, the biggest enforcer of workplace health & safety laws in the U.S., administers more than 180 laws covering the activities of 150 million workers and 10 million workplaces across the country. After all, there are a lot of dangers that workers face on the job.

However, as a safety professional, you’re not concerned with every health & safety law on the books. You just need to know the ones that apply to you. And even then, knowing which ones apply to you is an uphill battle in its own right.

If you’re new to the industry or just looking to refresh your knowledge in time for your next safety training, here’s a quick overview of some of the most important health & safety laws currently on the books.

Workplace Health & Safety

When it comes to the broad topic of workplace health & safety, no law looms larger than the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970. Administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), this law covers most employees in the United States in three broad categories:

  • Most private sector employees
  • Some state and local government employees
  • Federal employees

The goal of the law is simple: to ensure that employers provide a safe, healthy place of work for their employees, reasonably free from recognized hazards ranging from noise to toxic chemicals. It covers issue from operational safety to whistleblower protection for industries ranging from construction to agriculture to general office workers.

In other words, most of the time, when you’re wondering what health & safety law applies to a situation, the OSH Act is the likely candidate.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation in the U.S. arose from a movement pushing to put more responsibility on employers, given that workers are the ones who bear the economic brunt of a serious injury even though employers are often the ones at fault.

That said, workers’ compensation laws aren’t cut and dry. They often depend on your state and your industry.

For example, longshoring workers are covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, while energy workers are covered by the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. Federal employees get their own law altogether, the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act.

Because there are so many overlapping laws and jurisdictions at work in workers’ compensation, the best place to start is to understand your workplace. Federal public sector employees fall under federal jurisdiction, but private sector or state government employees do not. If you’re not a federal employee, start by contacting your state’s workers’ compensation program to get a lay of the land.

Making Sense of Health & Safety Laws

This is not a comprehensive review of every health & safety law on the book by any stretch – we could fill a library trying to do that. However, as an EHS professional, it is your professional duty to know and implement the laws that apply to you, no matter how many laws that might be.

Our health and safety software makes that job easier, allowing you to take a bird’s eye view of compliance at your organization so you’re always one step ahead. Because where safety is concerned, you can’t afford surprises. Get in touch today to learn more about how our safety software can help your EHS team thrive.

Topics: OSHA, Workplace Health and Safety, Compliance, Safety Management

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