OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is responsible for health and safety within the workplace. OSHA undertakes public education on topics of workplace safety, as well as enforces safety standards by taking action against violators of workplace health and safety regulations. Educating employers and the work force about the importance of health and safety on the job helps to avoid accidents before they happen and to reduce the necessity of legal action against violators.
According to OSHA, 161,000 workers were injured in falls in 2009. According to the Office of Compliance Safety and Health, this number was 257,100, with fatal falls numbering 696 in 2003. These numbers give some idea as to the importance of safety education about falling hazards in the workplace.
In an attempt to reduce the incidences of falling injuries and deaths in the workplace, OSHA promotes worker training and education, as well as the use of guardrail and safety net systems and personal fall-arrest equipment, such as harnesses and ropes.
Industrial environments feature a large number of potentially hazardous substances in the air, ranging from invisible and odorless gases to floating particulates, such as dust and specks of insulation. OSHA offers training in the use of respiratory protection systems ranging from simple dust masks to self-contained "positive pressure" breathing apparatus, which direct a flow of air outward from the mask, thus keeping all pathogens and particulates away from the lungs of the worker.
A key element in respiratory safety in the workplace is extensive worker education and knowledge about the hazards of any particular job site. Particularly when workers are facing invisible and odorless hazards, information and education are their only means of protecting themselves, since they are not able to detect the hazard physically.
Airborne pathogens are only one type of hazardous material that exists in the workplace. In addition, there are flammable materials, radioactive materials, explosive materials, and materials that can cause skin irritation, chemical burns and rashes.
OSHA attempts to keep workers and management informed about all of these hazards, and to enforce regulations concerning their use, transportation, clean-up and disposal. Different materials require different safety precautions, and this is why education is so important. While working with radioactive material may require a full-body suit that hermetically seals the worker from the substance, caustic materials may only require rubber gloves and an apron. Insufficient worker protection has the potential of injury, long-term disability or death.
Working with power tools and machines can expose workers to excessively loud noises for prolonged periods. The damage that is caused by this is not immediate or dramatic as in the case of a fall or an eye injury; hearing damage and loss sometimes won't manifest for years. A worker's hearing can be damaged by noise for a long period of time before he or she even notices. This is why there are rules requiring all employees in loud environments to wear hearing protection. Without regulations, many employees would assume that no damage was being done to their hearing and would be setting themselves up for future hearing loss.