OSHA Definitions: 100+ Workplace Safety Terms

osha definition and terms

To help you better understand the jargon and technical terms safety professionals use, we’ve put together this useful glossary. You’ll find common workplace and OSHA safety terms, along with a short definition of each one. Don’t forget to bookmark this page so that you can refer back to it. And feel free to share this glossary with anyone you think will benefit from it!

Term Definition
1926 Subpart C 1926 Subpart C contains the basic elements and requirements of a safety and health program, including first aid, fire protection, housekeeping at the site, illumination, sanitation and personal protective equipment. Subpart C also includes the definitions of terms used in construction standards.
29 CFR 1910.120(e)(3) This article states that workers that are frequently exposed to non-toxic materials (exposures are under permissible limits) need a minimum of 24 hours of safety instruction off-site, and a minimum of a one day on-site practical observation.
Accident Prevention Plan (APP) An Accident Prevention Plan (APP) instructs employees how to respond in the case of common occupational hazards. It includes precautions that should be taken to reduce or eliminate these hazards.
Activity Hazard Analysis (AHA) An AHA is technique that analyzes common job hazards before they occur. Specifically, AHAs focus on the relationship between the employee, the task, the tools and the work environment. The idea behind an Activity Hazard Analysis is that once all potential hazards are identified that they can be avoided and eliminated.
Administrative Line of Authority The group of administrative authorities who are responsible for smooth mining operations.
Air Monitoring Work environments can be contaminated by hazardous gases, vapors and particles in the air which can be dangerous to breathe in. To prevent exposure, workers need to identify and measure the toxicity of the air around them with air monitoring devices, systems and methods.
Alternate Entry Alternate entry procedures should be used when the only hazard in a confined space is an atmospheric hazard that is being controlled with air ventilation. If those conditions change, a Confined Space Entry Permit is required.
Asbestos Exposure Asbestos exposure is common in the construction industry and can lead to asbestos-related diseases including pleural plaques, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Precautions should be taken to prevent the hazards of asbestos exposure.
Asphyxiation Asphyxiation is the process of being deprived of oxygen that can lead to unconsciousness or death by suffocation. Asphyxiation can be common in confined spaces that are not properly scoped and maintained.
Atmospheric Monitoring Atmospheric testing and monitoring is required for both evaluation testing and verification testing. Evaluation testing includes analyzing hazardous atmospheres that may exist, so that appropriate permit entry procedures can be developed. Verification testing is the process of testing the residues of all contaminants identified by evaluation testing.
Bloodborne Pathogens Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans. Examples of bloodborne pathogens include hepatitis and HIV.
Chemical Exposure Employers and employees are required by OSHA to work together to identify and prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals that can lead to health problems and physical hazards.
Chemical Hazards Chemical hazards are the negative side effects of chemicals that can cause long-term health issues. Chemical hazards need to be appropriately labeled and handled.
Concrete & Masonry Masonry is made up of large units of bricks, stones or blocks which are bound together by mortar. Concrete on the other hand is made of cement, aggregates and water, and is set into place without the use of large units. Personnel that work with either masonry or concrete need to take an appropriate OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 training course
Confined Space Atmospheric Hazards Atmospheric hazards are dusts, chemical vapors, fogs and mists that can interfere with our body's ability to use oxygen. Common atmospheric hazards are: oxygen deficiency, oxygen displacement, flammable atmospheres and toxic gases.
Confined Space Permit System Certain confined spaces require a permit. These spaces contain hazardous atmospheric conditions, materials that have the potential to engulf the entrant, walls that converge or taper into a small area, or contain unguarded machinery, lives wires or heat stress.
Confined Spaces Areas that have limited entry and exit points and are large enough for a person to enter and work, but are not safe to work in for a long period of time. Confined spaces are considered dangerous and contain a variety of hazards.
Conveyors A conveyor is a person or system used to transport, carry or communicate items or information.
Corrosives Present in almost every workplace, corrosives are materials that can chemically destroy exposed body tissue and other materials. Examples of corrosives are: hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, ammonium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide.
Cranes A type of machine that is equipped with hoist ropes or chains that is used to both lift and lower heavy objects and materials. Cranes can also be used to lift materials horizontally.
Decontamination The process of removing and neutralizing contaminants that are present on employees and equipment. Decontamination is an essential part of maintaining the health and safety of employees who work at hazardous waste sites.
Derricks Similar to cranes, derricks are used to lift heavy materials and objects. Unlike cranes however, derricks are not moveable and have a stationary foundation.
Electrical Hazards A dangerous side-effect of an employees making contact with energized equipment or a conductor. Examples of injuries a worker can receive from an electrical hazard are: arc flashes, thermal burns and blast injuries.
Electrocutions The term used to describe death or injury by electric shock. Electrocution is a common electricity-related hazard.
Elevators Also referred to as a hoist, an elevator is a temporary device used to lift passengers and construction materials up and down the side of large scale construction projects. Construction elevators are commonly used on high-rise buildings and major hospitals.
EM 385-1-1 Manual EM 385-1-1 requires that at least one Site Health and Safety Officer be formally trained in the guidelines listed in EM 385-1-1. The EM 385-1-1 manual outlines the information the Site Health and Safety Officer will need to master to comply with the US Army Corps of Engineers Contractor Safety and Health Requirements.
Emergency Action Plans OSHA standards require that an emergency action plan (EAP) be put in place for certain worksites. An EAP should be used as an instruction guide for employees to follow during workplace emergencies.
Emergency Spill Response When a hazardous substance spill is reported, employees and government agencies must respond and remove the substance. Methods of emergency spill responses include: burning or treating hazardous substances, using chemicals to stop the spread of the hazard, and removing the hazardous materials from soil.
Entry Permits Because confined spaces can be dangerous and come with a variety of hazards, entry permits are often required before workers can enter the space. Entry permits ensure the area is safe for human contact and confirm that the air is the only hazard present after atmospheric testing is completed.
Environmental Hazards A hazard, substance, state or event that can (even potentially) threaten the natural environment, or negatively affect people's health. Environmental hazards can be categorized into four types: chemical, physical, biological and psychosocial.
Ergonomics The study of worker and employee efficiency.
Excavation Work that includes the removal of soil or rock from a worksite using tools, machinery or explosives. Excavation work results in an open face, hole or cavity that can be used to lay pipe or create trenches.
Fall Protection Falling is the most common cause of work-related injuries and deaths, so OSHA enforces fall protection methods on all worksites. Examples of OSHA-approved protection methods are: adding railing, toe-board or floor hole covers, utilizing harnesses and implementing safety nets.
Fire Prevention Plans Documentation and plans that are used to prevent fires. Fire Prevention Plans (FPP) should describe fire fuel sources, and explain building systems like fire extinguishers and alarms that should be in place to prevent and control fires.
Fire Protection Typically including fire alarms, extinguishers and sprinkler systems, fire protection methods and equipment are installed to protect people and buildings should a fire occur.
First Aid/CPR Types of help administered to a sick or injured person until full medical treatment is available. While First Aid can be used to heal a wide variety of injuries, CPR is used when a person is struggling to breathe or their heart is not beating.
Flammable & Combustible Liquids Can easily be ignited in the air at ambient temperatures. Flammable and combustible liquids can easily burn and they're classified based on their flashpoint, or the temperature they can be ignited at.
GHS Hazard Communication Standards Provides easy-to-understand information on the safe handling of hazardous equipment. The Hazard Communication Standard is comprised of four main parts: Hazard Classification, Labels, Safety Data Sheets, and Training.
Hand and Power Tools While hand tools are powered manually, power tools are powered by electricity, batteries or are pneumatic-powered. Both classifications of tools require safety training, personal safety equipment, guards and safety switches.
Hazard Determination The process of evaluating a chemical against scientific evidence to determine if a chemical should be classified as hazardous. This process identifies both physical and health hazards.
Hazardous Waste Operations The cleaning up of hazardous materials at uncontrolled waste sites. All employers must have a Hazardous Waste Operations plan in place to identify, evaluate and control safety and health hazards.
HAZWOPER Stands for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. HAZWOPER is a set of guidelines written by OSHA to regulate hazardous waste operations and to help protect employees from hazards. Any employee that is exposed or could be exposed to hazardous materials is covered under the HAZWOPER standard.
Hoists A device used to lift and lower a load. Hoists work by using ropes and chains that wrap around drums or lift-wheels; can be manually, electrically or pneumatically operated.
Industrial Hygiene Also known as Occupational Hygiene, Industrial Hygiene is the practice of controlling and protecting employees from health and safety hazards that can cause injury or illness.
Lead exposure Occurs when the body is exposed to higher-than-normal amounts of lead. Lead exposure can cause lead poisoning, developmental delays, abdominal pain, and even death. Lead exposure typically occurs at construction sites involving older buildings, or in those who work in welding.
Lockout/Tagout A safety procedure that ensures equipment and heavy-machinery are properly shut off and are unable to turn back on before the required repairs and maintenance have been completed.
Machine Guarding A machinery safety feature that uses a shield or device to cover the dangerous, moving parts of the machine. Machine guarding is used to control hazards like flying sparks and wood chips from leaving the machine area.
Medical Surveillance Program This program is initiated when a worker is exposed to an occupational hazard that could have health-related side effects. A Medical Surveillance Program is used to monitor the individual for adverse health effects after their hazard exposure.
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) The government agency that administers the provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. Specifically, they enforce compliance with the mandatory safety and health standards to prevent and eliminate injuries and deaths.
Mine Safety Rules The standards and regulations used to prevent injuries and deaths of mine workers in the United States. These regulations are mandated by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and include safety topics like personal protective equipment, permit-required confined spaces and atmospheric conditions.
Mining Equipment (Mobile and Stationary) There is a wide-variety of equipment used in mining operations, some of the equipment is stationary, while other equipment is mobile. Examples of mining equipment include: backhoes, cone crushers, scrapers and screw conveyors.
MSHA - CFR 30 This volume contains the rules and regulations issued by MSHA that cover safe mining operations. These guidelines include safety training procedures and mine rescue arrangements.
MSHA Part 46 This MSHA volume covers safety training that is specific to miners engaged in shell dredging, or those working in sand, gravel, surface stone, surface clay and surface limestone mines.
MSHA 5000-23 Form Used by mine operators to record their employee's Part 48 Training compliance, Form 5000-23 is also known as a Certificate of Training and is required by 30 CFR Part 48.9 and 48.39. Form 5000-23 should be readily available for viewing by MSHA, and each employee should get a copy of their certificate.
OSHA Also known as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor, OSHA works to create safe and healthy working conditions. OSHA sets and enforces safe working standards by offering training, outreach and education.
OSHA Act A US labor law that governs occupational health and safety standards in both the public and private sectors. This law was passed in 1970, after growing awareness of workplace safety issues reached its peak.
OSHA Inspection Priorities Because OSHA manages over 7 million worksites, their inspectors address the most hazardous workplaces first, by following this list of priorities: imminent danger situations, severe injuries and illnesses, worker complaints, referrals, targeted inspections and follow-up inspections.
OSHA Inspection Processes OSHA employees inspect workplaces based on prioritization. OSHA inspections follow a strict series of steps including: preparation, presentation of credentials, opening conference, the walkaround and the closing conference.
Outreach Training Programs An OSHA program that provides basic and advanced training for all types of health and safety hazards employees face in the workplace.
Overhead Protection An OSHA-required safety feature for the construction industry; protects workers and pedestrians from falling tools and equipment.
Oxidizers A chemical or material that can oxidize other substances. Oxidation occurs when electrons are passed from the substance to the oxidizer. Common oxidizers are oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and halogens.
Permissible Exposure Limits The legal limit for a worker's exposure to a chemical, safety or physical hazards. Each hazard has its own set of permissible exposure limits.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Clothing and equipment that protects a worker from job-related hazards. Examples of PPE are: helmets, goggles and masks.
Pictograms Used in hazard communication, pictograms are symbols used to represent specific hazards. Pictograms are drawn as symbols on white backgrounds with red borders.
Radiation Electromagnetic waves or subatomic particles that are emitted as energy. There are many types of radiation, and not all of them are dangerous.
Respiratory Equipment Tools and equipment used to help workers breathe in hazardous conditions.
Rigging Equipment Devices and equipment that are used to safely lift and move large objects. Types of rigging equipment include: wire rope slings, polyester webbing slings, chain slings and spreader beams.
Rollover Protective Structures Also known as ROPs, Rollover Protective Structures are a type of equipment that is used to protect drivers, operators and motorists from vehicle rollovers. Tractors, UTVs and earth-moving machinery all boast ROPs.
Safety and Health Programs Employers are encouraged by OSHA to establish a safety and health program for their employees. The program should encompass management commitment and employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and safety and health training.
Sanitation at Temporary Workplaces OSHA requires that employers setup adequate and readily available sanitation stations for both stationary and temporary workplaces. Requirements for the stations include: a regular cleaning schedule, potable water and private areas (like bathroom stalls).
Scaffolding Usually composed of metal poles and wooden floor boards, scaffolding allows construction workers to work on the outside of building, even at great heights. Scaffolding can be used for building, repairing and cleaning buildings.
Silica Exposure When quartz is cut or drilled, the dust that's produced contains silica. When silica dust is inhaled it can lead to lung disease and lung cancer. To avoid silica exposure, workers should wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Site Characterization A site characterization exercise involves an exploration and understanding of the geologic, hydrologic and engineering properties at a work site. Soil, groundwater, tunnels and other structures will all be analyzed for the site characterization report.
Site Safety Health Official (SSHO) A person responsible for worksite safety and workplace inspections and audits. SSHOs are found in both construction and general industries.
Solvents A liquid or gas (often a chemical) that can dissolve another substance. Common solvents are water, ethanol, toluene, chloroform and acetone.
Stairways & Ladders As major sources of injuries, stairways and ladders are highly-regulated by OSHA. OSHA standards apply to stairways and ladders that are used in construction, alteration, repair, painting, decorating and demolition.
Statutory Miners Rights Miners have rights guaranteed by the 1977 Mine Act; these rights are intended to be responsibly used to promote the safety and health of all mine workers. Specific rights included in the 1997 Mine Act are: the right to file a safety complaint, the right to leave the mine if you don't have the necessary safety training, and the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.
Subpart AA of 29 CFR 1926 This OSHA subpart protects construction workers from confined space hazards that are not covered in Subpart P - Excavations.
Toxicology The scientific study of the adverse side effects of chemical exposure. Toxicology also includes exposure diagnostics and treatments.
U.S Army Corps of Engineers Contractor Safety and Health Requirements (USACE) An agency of the US Department of Defense; composed of both civil and military personnel that specialize in engineering, design and construction management.
Ventilation The intentional addition of outdoor air to a room or building. Proper ventilation is essential in confined spaces and mines.
Welding & Cutting Processes that meld metals together using oxygen and heat. The most common welding and cutting types are oxy-fuel welding and oxy-fuel cutting.

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