H&S Compliance Basics: Key Regulatory Bodies, by Region

In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 stipulates what employers are responsible for in the area of H&S. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the U.S. Ministry of Labor, was created in 1971 to enforce the Act and amend it when necessary.

Individual U.S. states are encouraged, but not required, to establish their own safety and health administrations. In 2018, 26 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands had OSHA-approved plans. Many state plans adopt standards identical to OSHA. OSHA approves and monitors all state plans and provides up to 50 percent of the funding for each program. State-run safety and health programs must be at least as effective (ALAE) as the federal OSHA program. Twenty-two of these programs cover both private and state and local government workers. OSHA provides coverage to certain workers specifically excluded from a state plan, such as those in some states who work in maritime industries or on military bases.

Workers at state and local government agencies are not covered by federal OSHA but are protected under the OSH Act if they work in states that have OSHA-approved state programs. Although OSHA does not fine federal agencies, it does monitor them and conducts inspections in response to workers’ reports of hazards.

In the United Kingdom, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) oversees Occupational Health and safety (OHS). It was created in 1975 under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Individual member states of the European Union enforce laws to ensure safe and healthy workplaces in their countries.

In Canada, each of the country’s 10 provinces and three territories has its own OHS legislation. For most companies, issues are dealt with at this level. There is also federal legislation that covers employees of the federal government and companies that operate in multiple provinces or internationally. According to the Canadian government, only about six percent of companies fall under federal legislation.

Organizations can also strive for compliance with the International Standards Organization’s (ISO) 45001 occupational health and safety standard. Compliance with this set of recommended guidelines and best practices, released in March 2018, is a strong statement to customers, partners, regulators and one’s industry that a company is serious about safety and health in their workplace.

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