In addition to setting standards with respect to the minimum wage, overtime, and other factors affecting worker pay, the federal government also sets standards for workplace health and safety. Since its creation by Congress in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the Department of Labor has been charged with ensuring safe and healthful working conditions. OSHA accomplishes its mission through standard setting and providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. According to OSHA guidelines, employers must keep their workplaces free of known health and safety hazards. And workers have the right to speak up about hazards without fear of retaliation.
Changes in working practices, technology, and the environment create new occupational safety and health challenges. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic drove the development of new practices and processes for ensuring safety in the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for preventing and reducing transmission among employees and maintaining healthy business operations and a healthy work environment. Extreme heat or other extreme weather conditions may increasingly present worker health and safety risks that employers will need to address.
Workplace Health and Safety: Policy
Health and safety of workers
Policymakers must ensure worker safety, particularly during public health emergencies.
Employers should be required to provide personal protective equipment, implement sanitation strategies to prevent disease spread, facilitate social distancing, and accommodate needs for remote work where possible.