Differences Between OSHA & Workers' Compensation

Governmental organizations regulate how employers treat employees.
Governmental organizations regulate how employers treat employees. (Image: Ryouchin/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Employment laws are federal and state laws that establish the manner in which employers must treat their employees. They are a way of protecting employees against labor abuse, and employers who are not following these laws can become subject to severe penalties and high fees. These laws include two measurements or standards of protection: health and safety standards and compensation standards.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the governmental organization in charge of enforcing safety and health regulations in working environments. Though OSHA has many regulations that it enforces, the broadest one is part of the employment code and is known as the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH), enacted in 1970. This act establishes standards of safety and health for employees in their work environments that have to be offered to them by their employers. It applies to employees and employers of the 50 states and to all industries of work, such as manufacturing, construction, agriculture and law. The specific standards will generally depend on the type of industry, but the three main common categories for any industry are access to medical and exposure records, personal protective equipment and hazard communication.

Workers' Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a type of unemployment benefit administered by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). The OWCP provides standards and regulations for the workers’ compensation program. The main objective of this benefit program is to require that employers pay compensation and health care for employees in cases where there has been a work accident that has caused them to have medical expenses or lose the ability to earn an income for a certain period of time. If an accident results in the death of the employee, it also demands the provision of monetary benefits for family members. An employer can meet these standards through various methods, the most common one being to buy liability insurance that would make these payments in case of such an event.

Employees' Rights

Employees’ rights under OSHA standards are to file complaints directly to OSHA in case any of the standards required by the OSH Act are not being met and the employee is not working under proper conditions of safety and health. Also, when employees do file complaints, their identities are kept confidential from employers. Employees also have the right to participate in OSHA workplace inspections if they so desire. In the case of workers’ compensation laws, an employee that has claimed work compensation for an accident that occurred at work is protected against discrimination from employers. However, if fraud on the part of the employee has been proven, the Workers' Compensation Act does not allow him any rights. If a claim is made, both parties have a right to challenge the claim, and the OWCP will decide if the employer needs to provide the compensation to his employee or not.

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