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Definition of Occupational Safety And Health Act

The Occupational Safety and Health Act is the primary federal law that governs occupational health and safety in both the private sector and the federal government in the United States. The law was passed by Congress in 1970 and signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 29, 1970. The Act defines an employer as any person who is engaged in a business that affects commerce who has employees, but this does not include the United States or any state or political subdivision of a State. The Act applies to employers that are as diverse as hospitals, labor unions, manufacturers, charities, private schools, law firms and construction companies.

The main goal of the law is to make sure that employers provide employees with a workplace environment that is free from recognized hazards, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, mechanical dangers, unsanitary conditions, excessive noise levels or heat or cold stress. In order to achieve this goal and assure safe and healthful working conditions for men and women, the Act does several things. This includes:

  • Authorizing enforcement of the standards that were developed under the Act
  • Assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions
  • Providing for research, information, education and training in the field of occupational safety and health and for other purposes.
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