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Workers’ Rights and Responsibilities – OSHA

Workers also have responsibilities under the OSH Act. Each worker must comply with OSHA standards and all related rules, regulations and orders applicable to his or her own actions and conduct. However, employees also have the right to:

  • Be trained in a language you understand
  • Work on machines that are safe
  • Be provided required safety gear, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls
  • Be protected from toxic chemicals
  • Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector
  • Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records
  • See copies of the workplace injury and illness log
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace

OSHA Standards

A standard (or regulation) are rules that describe the methods employers are legally required to follow to protect their workers from hazards. OSHA standards are published in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and are divided into separate standards for General Industry, Construction, and Maritime. These standards limit the amounts of hazardous chemicals to which workers can be exposed, require the use of certain safe practices and equipment and require employers to monitor hazards and keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Before OSHA can issue a standard, it must go through a very extensive and lengthy process that includes substantial public engagement, notice and comment. The agency must show that a significant risk to workers exists and that there are feasible measures employers can take to protect their workers.

Examples of OSHA standards include requirements to provide fall protection, prevent trenching cave-ins, prevent exposure to some infectious diseases, ensure the safety of workers who enter confined spaces, prevent exposure to harmful substances such as asbestos and lead, put guards on machines, provide respirators or other safety equipment and provide training for certain dangerous jobs.


Many OSHA standards explicitly require the employer to train workers in the safety and health aspects of their jobs. Other OSHA standards make it the employer’s responsibility to limit certain job assignments to workers who are “certified,” “competent” or “qualified”—meaning that they have had special previous training, in or out of the workplace. The term “designated” personnel means selected or assigned by the employer or the employer’s representative as being qualified to perform specific duties.

These requirements reflect OSHA’s belief that training is an essential part of every employer’s safety and health program for protecting workers from injuries and illnesses. Those who are new on the job have a higher rate of accidents and injuries than more experienced workers.