What are Occupational Health Standards?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Occupational health standards are mandatory guidelines set forth to ensure safety in the workplace for U.S. employers and their employees. The purpose of these regulations is to protect the health and safety of workers engaged in occupations that may involve certain additional hazards, such as the handling of materials and chemicals associated with construction, manufacturing, and medicine. On a federal level, occupational health standards are regulated and compliance enforced by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. However, individual states may institute their own or even additional occupational health standards providing that they meet with OSHA approval.

Specifically, occupational health standards outlined by OSHA or a state plan require employers to adhere to acceptable practices to minimize health and safety risks in the workplace, such as the controlled handling and disposal of industrial chemicals, for example. In addition, occupational health standards extend to the mandatory provision of protective clothing and equipment, if applicable, as well as an employee’s right to receive training in the use of such devices. These regulations also guarantee an employee’s right to access various records, such as injury and incident reports and material safety data sheets that must accompany products or materials that have been determined to pose a potential health risk from exposure.


Generally, federal occupational health standards cover four broad types of occupational environments, which are construction, maritime, agriculture, and general industry. Of course, many sub-categories fall under these industries as well. In the event that OSHA has not designated any occupational health standards for a specific workplace environment or its associated health risks, employers are still obligated to meet the requirements of the “general duty” clause of the OSH Act. This means that the employer must take all reasonable precautions to eliminate or reduce any hazard in the workplace that may cause injury or death to an employee.

There are certain workplace conditions that are exempt from OSHA-regulated occupational health standards, however. First, the Act does not cover self-employed individuals. It also doesn’t apply to agricultural farms in which the workforce is exclusively made up of immediate family members. The Act also doesn’t apply to state and local government employees, unless they are in one of the 22 U.S. states that operate under an OSHA-approved plan. In addition, certain federal employees, such as those working in nuclear weapons technology or homeland security, may be guided by federal agencies other than OSHA.


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Post 1

There must be a grading system to identify the level of standards a company is following in providing OH care. Compliance with the law is one thing. But if the employee health laws in a country are weak or are not regularly updated, does it mean that the OH professional should not do all within his/her ability to protect employee health.

I propose a system where grading is done of the OH services offered by a company to its employees. Grade 1 is the most basic, and Grade 10 the most advanced. I feel even the good companies in the developing world will be less than Grade 5. The effort should be to reach Grade 8 or 9. Grade 10 is ideal and not easily achievable. Guess the contents of each grade. Dr. Ajay S.

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