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Who and What Does Health & Safety Legislation Protect?

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on October 23, 2020 at 4:46 PM

As an EHS professional, many of your safety responsibilities circle back to the same basic question: who and what does health and safety legislation protect?

The short answer? Your employees.

The long answer? It depends on what kind of employer you are, where you do business, and what kind of business you do.

Don’t drive yourself up the wall trying to understand your compliance obligations. Here’s a quick overview of who OSHA covers, who OSHA does not cover, and the quirky circumstances that may complicate matters.

Who Does OSHA Cover?

OSHA covers three broad categories of workers:

  1. Private sector employees
  2. State and local government employees
  3. Federal government employees

Most employees in the country fall under OSHA’s jurisdiction, largely because most private sector employees fall under OSHA’s jurisdiction. The agency covers private sector companies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either under federal or state OSHA coverage.

There are some cases where states have their own state OSHA plans. In those states, the state OSHA plan must be as good as or better than the coverage offered under federal OSHA regulation.

State and local government employees are one group in this quirky category. Technically, they are not under the purview of federal OSHA, but they are still afforded OSHA coverage if they work in a state with a federal-approved OSHA state plan. There are 22 states and territories in that category:

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. California
  4. Hawaii
  5. Indiana
  6. Iowa
  7. Kentucky
  8. Maryland
  9. Michigan
  10. Minnesota
  11. Nevada
  12. New Mexico
  13. North Carolina
  14. Oregon
  15. South Carolina
  16. Tennessee
  17. Utah
  18. Vermont
  19. Virginia
  20. Washington
  21. Wyoming
  22. Puerto Rico

In addition, there are five states and one U.S. territory with OSHA-approved plans covering public-sector workers only:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Illinois
  3. Maine
  4. New Jersey
  5. New York
  6. Virgin Islands

All private sector workers in these five states and the U.S. Virgin Islands receive protections under federal OSHA.

Exceptions to OSHA Coverage

That said, there are a few notable exceptions to OSHA coverage.

The most obvious example is state and local government workers, but as shown above, those workers fall in a quirky category with partial coverage depending on their state-level government participation in occupational health & safety legislation.

However, there are certain worker categories who are entirely excluded from OSHA coverage. These can be classified in three categories:

  • Self-employed workers
  • Immediate family members of farm employers
  • Workplace hazards regulated by a different agency

Even so, there are some exceptions to be aware of.

For example, a self-employed worker is not covered by OSHA. If you’re your own boss, you’re not covered, but your employees are covered as long as they’re not freelancers or independent contractors. However, your spouse may be covered if they receive a paycheck from your business.

Farm workers are a similarly sticky issue that requires paying attention to the details. Under OSHA’s appropriations law, OSHA cannot expend funds to enforce regulation under the OSH Act which is applicable to anyone in a farming operation employing 10 people or fewer employees and does not maintain a temporary labor camp. To be clear, the OSH Act does apply to these operations, but the language of the appropriations law exempts employers under certain highly specific conditions.

Last but not least are hazards regulated by a different agency. One of the big examples is mining, which is covered by the Mining Safety & Health Administration (MSHA). Other agencies with precedence in specific areas include the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, and the Coast Guard.

Your Responsibilities Under Health & Safety Legislation

All this brings us to two essential questions: how do you know who’s covered and how do you know whose regulations you answer to?

The short answer? Know your industry.

The long answer? It pays to have the right tools to make heads or tails of health & safety legislation. That’s where we can help, with safety software that makes it easy to understand your compliance obligations no matter how many agencies you answer to.

Because while regulations may be complicated, keeping your employees safe shouldn’t be. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help your business stay one step ahead of compliance.

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

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