What is Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)?

Emma AndersonJanuary 25, 2023

By definition, the term Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is described as “the multidisciplinary field concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of employees.” But in practice, it means so much more. Recently, I had an opportunity to meet 30 safety professionals in the last Safety Council Meeting to understand what efforts actually go into successfully achieving occupational safety and health standards. These interactions made me realize the importance of occupational safety, occupational health, & industrial hygiene and helped me come up with the most critical information that enables you to achieve complete safety standards for your organization

A definition is one of the best places to start if you’re looking for ways to describe occupational health and safety.

A broader definition from Wikipedia states, “OSH is the multidisciplinary field concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of employees.” One report on occupational health and safety says it’s a field of public health studying trends in illness and injuries in the worker population to propose and implement strategies to prevent them. On the other hand, Bizfluent describes Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) as the right of every worker, regardless of industry, to carry out their work in a safe environment

All these definitions have a different focus and translate to a slightly different understanding of occupational health and safety. Wikipedia describes a comprehensive approach; on the other hand, the second definition highlights occupational health and safety in statistical terms.

Ultimately, occupational health and safety are about emphasis and what individual elements your workplace chooses to pull forward. This can cover anything from injury prevention, risk assessment, employee well-being, safety programs, process safety management, work-life balance, injury prevention, occupational hazards, and safety education

The Importance of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)

Occupational safety and health play a pivotal role in three significant fields: Occupational Safety, Occupational Health, and Industrial Hygiene

Occupational Safety

Occupational safety helps organizations to understand the causes of work accidents and ways to prevent unsafe practices. It allows companies to maintain complete safety standards across daily housekeeping activities, material handling and storage, electrical and machine safety, fire prevention and control, accident investigation, safety inspection, and more. Such conditions are linked to more employee productivity as employees are more expected to be motivated when they know they are valued and are in a safe environment where they can work their best

Occupational Health

Occupational health deals with how workplace hazards and risks at work may cause diseases and illnesses and emphasizes that health programs are essential in controlling work-related injuries and occupational diseases. Such programs will not only ensure safety but could also lead to business improvements. Credible reports suggest that occupational hazards and injuries have a physical cost and additional costs to companies. Employees getting injured are costly for the employee and the company, so avoiding and mitigating them early on will save them money, resources, and time.

Industrial Hygiene

Industrial hygiene includes various practices for identifying, evaluating, and controlling physical, chemical, biological, and ergonomic factors and hazards. This helps companies address and reduce potential health and safety risks to employees. It can cover everything from injury prevention, workplace hazards, risk assessment, and work-life balance to employee management

Different OHS Practices Around the World

WHO (World Health Organization) urges governments worldwide to emphasize the health and safety of the workplace. Countries worldwide have created safety agencies for implementing OSH within their jurisdictions to support this objective.

United States

The United States of America passed Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 to create the utmost safety standards for all workplace employees. The nation also established Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Department of Labor to properly implement regulations, laws, and policies across all 50 states. The OSH Act states the most common occupational hazards, how to resolve them, and the safety protocols to follow during emergencies. It also gives guidelines on how workplace employees should be compensated and what benefits they’re entitled to if increased incidents occur


In the United Kingdom, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) agency oversees the OHS standards across the country. The agency has implemented the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) consists of provisions for all concerns related to occupational safety. The law gives guidelines for the workplace’s standard of health and safety. Additionally, there are provisions for the duties of employers, the rights of employees, the purpose of having a medical advisory service in the workplace, and common hazards and how to address them.


In Canada, Occupational Health and Safety is governed by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Established in 1978 under the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Act, CCOHS is responsible for developing and enforcing health and safety protocols to promote overall well-being for all workers. In addition to providing guidelines, CCOHS also offers resources such as training, wellness programs, education, and solutions to assist companies in supporting their employees

CCOHS also has created a digital library, known as CanOSH, to provide easy access to all Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) resources. This website contains all the regulations and provisions for OHS in the Canadian workplace and is available for public viewing. This initiative aims to improve workplace safety by increasing employee awareness and understanding of the laws and guidelines at all levels


In Australia, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is widely referred to as Work Health and Safety (WHS). While each state has its regulations for WHS, all must adhere to the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 under the oversight of the government agency Safe Work Australia. The Act and its corresponding state legislation outline the necessary safety protocols for companies and specify the compensation and benefits to which employees are entitled in the event of incidents or injuries


The Health at Work Act, passed on August 2, 2021, as law no. 2021-1018 aims to improve occupational health in France by providing a unified set of services for companies and their employees nationwide. The Act guarantees a minimum of 5 days of training in health, safety, and working conditions for members of the social and economic committee (CSE)

In addition, the Ministry of Labor works closely with research agencies to evaluate potential risks in specific job tasks, hazards, and locations. They also collaborate with the National Agency for the Improvement of Working Conditions, occupational medical services, and occupational health officers to guide companies in preventing these risks


No specific laws or government entities in Mexico are dedicated to Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). Instead, OHS standards are established and enforced through the Federal Labor Law and the Social Security Law. The Labor Law aims to ensure the well-being of all Mexican citizens by outlining the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, defining safe working conditions, and protecting employee rights. Meanwhile, the Social Security Law provides more detailed information on employee rights related to health and safety in the workplace


Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in Brazil is regulated by the Brazilian Regulatory Standards, also known as Norma Regulamentadora (NR). These standards aim to establish and implement workplace health and safety guidelines. The Ministry of Labor and Employment periodically reviews and updates these standards to ensure they are up-to-date and effective.

Professionals in Occupational Safety and Health

The occupational health and safety field offers various careers in government agencies and private companies. Various degrees and certifications are available for individuals interested in the area. Some examples of occupational health and safety jobs include:

Safety specialists:** Experts in government regulations; help organizations create a safe environment; may create or run safety education programs

Safety technicians:** Assist safety specialists; collect and analyze data; evaluate potential hazards; conduct tests to determine better safety practices

Safety trainer:** Creates and runs training programs that help employees maintain a safe workplace; may specialize in mitigating workplace risks for a specific industry

Safety manager:** Oversees workplace safety for a company; implements and monitors safety standards based on local and federal guidelines; run safety drills and education programs

Safety Engineer:** Develop technology aimed at improving workplace safety; or develop products that are safe for customers or employees to use

Construction inspectors:** Ensure new construction follows local and federal building codes and other regulations

Intelligence analyst:** Gather and analyze data and evidence regarding the safety of an organization and its clients; develop safety practices for their organization; may specialize in cybersecurity or industrial security

Safety coordinator:** Develops and monitors health and safety standards for a company; ensures adherence to local and federal guidelines

Injury prevention specialist:** Minimize risk of accidents and injuries for a company; evaluate potential hazards and work with management to develop solutions

Environmental protection agent:** Identifies possible contributions to pollution or climate change; develops environmentally friendly alternatives or fixes

Occupational health nurse:** Diagnoses and treats health issues for a group or organization; may specialize in the unique hazards of a particular industry; implements programs to improve employee health and safety

Fire inspector:** Identifies potential hazards that could lead to a fire or explosion; ensures adherence to fire codes; typically work for government agencies, but some are in the private sector

Well-being manager:** Creates and runs programs to support workers’ physical and mental health

Industrial hygienist:** Anticipate and try to prevent workplace hazards; has specialized knowledge of biological and physical materials that could cause health or safety problems; implements strategies to minimize risks

Key Areas To Focus on to Improve Occupational Safety and Health

While occupational health and safety covers various topics, certain areas require more attention than others

Safety Violations

Safety violations in the workplace mainly result in injury or damage. Employers and employees should be aware of safety violations and take steps to resolve them before they become significant issues. This could be achieved through conducting investigations, implementing corrective actions, and regularly reviewing safety protocols. By doing so, the organization can mitigate the risk of accidents and improve the overall safety culture

Download the free case study here:** How the world’s leading automaker reduced safety incidents on the shop-floor.


Each year, hundreds of workers in the United States lose their lives due to falls on the job. Although these incidents are largely preventable, falls continue to cause fatalities among construction workers. For builders, working at heights may be a certainty; however, implementing proper safety measures can prevent deaths and injuries. These measures should be integrated into the planning stages of a project before work commences. In the project estimate, employers must factor in the cost of safety equipment, such as harnesses, scaffolds, and fall arrest systems, ensuring that all workers have access to and are trained in using the necessary equipment

Heat Illness

Every year, OSHA reports that thousands of workers succumb to death or fall ill due to extreme heat or humidity. To maintain complete occupational safety and health standards, companies have a legal responsibility to maintain safe working conditions, including appropriate temperatures, as per federal law. OSHA is promoting an awareness campaign urging employers to provide water, rest, and shade to workers, particularly when the heat index exceeds 91 degrees Fahrenheit, to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries

Repetitive Stress Injuries

Poor posture and repetitive motions are becoming a significant concern in occupational health. Many American workers spend the majority of their time at work on computers, typing and clicking for extended periods, leading to the overuse of specific muscles and joints. This routine can cause conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain. Additionally, the common practice of using poor posture while utilizing electronic devices, both on and off the clock, can result in chronic pain, decreased productivity, and increased medical expenses. Employers realize that investing in ergonomics and office safety measures, such as preventing slips, trips, and falls, can have a positive financial return when considering lost productivity and employer medical costs

Non-Fatal Injuries

While many think of workplace safety primarily in terms of dangerous industries such as construction, oil & gas, energy, and utilities, which have high rates of fatal accidents, non-fatal injuries and illnesses are a significant problem. These damages can significantly decrease productivity, as more than half of them cause employees to take time off. Furthermore, treatment costs and the human suffering caused by these injuries add burden

Safety Audit Software for Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)

Occupational health and safety management is vital in maintaining safer workplace conditions for employees. Organizations have a wide range of responsibilities that can only be full with the assistance of technology. Fortunately, there are numerous safety audit software, hazard risk assessment toolsand mobile applications available that can assist managers in various tasks such as performing audits, identifying health and environmental hazards, assigning corrective actions, implementing appropriate measures, and reporting. These tools can help make EHS management more efficient and effective


In this blog, I aimed to explain occupational safety and health and what is essential for any organization. Simply put, occupational acts as a superhero for the workplace, safeguarding employees, the environment, and the business from harm. It acts as a compliance enforcer and a powerful tool that enables the smooth and efficient operation of the organization. Occupational health and safety is a necessary aspect of any business, and it should be taken seriously to ensure the well-being of all stakeholders

Key Takeaways

Not prioritizing occupational safety and health audit could lead to employee injury or illness, environmental damage, and costly fines. On the other hand, with a focus on OHS, you can ensure a safe and responsible workplace

Like any superhero, EHS has tools to aid in its mission, one of the most compelling being safety audit software. The software seamlessly integrates EHS into your operations, simplifies compliance, streamlines processes, and provides real-time insights into safety performance

If you are in search of comprehensive I software, I recommend Axonator. I’ve seen many companies use this software to improve overall compliance in their processes. If you would like to learn more about Axonator’s EHS solution, please feel free to reach out to us, and we would be happy to provide additional information

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