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Occupational Health & Safety Bodies - Who they are and what they do

Throughout North America there are a number of government bodies for occupational health and safety. Most of these groups only have a short reach. For example the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) only serves the one state.

All these bodies, even though they have the same goals, have their own areas they look after. While some can only recommend actions for other bodies to take, others have the force of law. Some times the policy of one group may contradict another. You need to know which one you need to follow, and which one you should follow.

Occupational Health & Safety In the United States

In the United States the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is the main body looking out for workplace safety. Under OSHA many states and territories have their own groups. These groups look after safety either for everyone or just the local government. However a little over half the states do not have their own body. They are covered directly by OSHA.

In Addition the US has both OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Both NOISH and OSHA are US Federal agencies however while OSHA is the regulating body. NIOSH leads research efforts in to ways to make the work place safer. On top of that it offers guidance where it can. OSHA views NIOSH research before creating new law, but they don't always follow it. This may lead to a situation where OSHA and NIOSH say things a little different. If you come across this you must meet the requirements laid out by OSHA in the US. However it is still be a good idea to follow the NOISH guidelines.

But In Canada

On the other hand Canada has merged the roles of both OSHA and NOISH into the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). CCOHS is oversees both research and regulation of safety at work. In addition every province and territory is has its own health and safety group.

In this way CCOHS regulations act as a base for everyone. Each of the provincial bodies then has more specific laws. For example the CCOHS requirements for fall protection state that you need fall protection when there is a danger of falling from a distance greater than 3 feet. Manitoba adds a clause requiring fall protection if you use the area as a path for a wheel barrow.

When looking to find out what laws apply it is important to understand which agency has authority in your region. Because the rules are based on research they are typically very similar but often have critical differences. If you have any questions about what you need in your region, consult OSHA in the US or CCOHS in Canada for information.

December 17, 2020
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