The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act establishes and protects workers' rights to a safe and healthful workplace. The law is administered by OSHA, which is charged with ensuring employers provide safe working conditions and a workplace free of recognized hazards.
Private sector employees
Federal OSHA covers most workers in the private sector. Some private sector employees, whose working conditions are regulated by other laws, are not covered. For example, the Mine Safety and Health Administration covers miners, the Department of Transportation plays a role in some transportation sectors, and the Environmental Protection Agency only covers pesticide issues for farm-workers but OSHA is responsible for other hazards in agriculture, such as COVID-19. If your employer has no more than 10 employees or you are hired as an independent contractor, you are not covered by OSHA.
Public sector employees
OSHA does not cover employees in the public sector (municipal, county or state government) unless you work in a state or territory that has a “state OSHA plan.” A state OSHA plan is a state government-run program that has been approved by federal OSHA and must be at least as protective as federal OSHA, performs their own enforcement and can develop additional safety and health standards. Twenty-eight states and territories have state OSHA plans.
Federal government employees
If you work for the federal government, you are covered by OSHA. By presidential order, federal agencies must have an effective safety and health program that meets OSHA standards. But federal agencies are not fined for violating health and safety standards. The exception to this is the U.S. Postal Service, which can be subject to inspections, citations and fines by OSHA.
|OSHA Coverage by State and Territory|
|AL, AR, CO, DE, DC, FL, GA, ID, KS, LA, MA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NH, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, TX, WV, WI||If you work for the private sector, you are covered by federal OSHA. If you work for the state or local government, you are not covered by OSHA. Some 8 million workers fall in this latter category; for years, unions have advocated for expansion of OSHA coverage to all public sector workers.|
|AK, AZ, CA*, HI, IN, IA, KY, MD, MI, MN, NV, NC, NM, OR, PR, SC, TN, UT, VT, VA**, WA, WY||You are covered by your state OSHA. The state agencies cover private sector and state and local government employees.|
|CT, IL, ME, NJ, NY, VI||If you work for the private sector, you are covered by federal OSHA. If you work for the state or local government, you are covered by your state’s OSHA.|
*California has an OSHA standard to protect some workers from infectious diseases. The Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard (CCR, Title 8, Section 5199) applies primarily in health care settings, laboratories and correctional facilities, not across all industries.
**Virginia is the first state in the nation to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect all workers from COVID-19.