How does the federal government protect healthy air at work?

In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Health and Safety Act to "assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women." Those safe working conditions include access to healthy air.

Two entities created by that law make the workplace a safer environment for everyone to breathe: the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH). They seek to protect workers whether they are employed in offices, factories or outdoors.

OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration

OSHA creates standards and regulations for workplace safety and also conducts site-inspections to assure compliance.

NIOSH – National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

NIOSH conducts research into what sorts of workplace exposures can harm employees. It generates knowledge that can prevent work-related illness and keep workers healthy. Learn more about current research on indoor air quality at NIOSH.

What state, local government protections are available?

Currently, 26 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have their own systems for protecting workers. According to the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act, state regulations must be at least as protective as federal standards. Find a summary of state programs, including links to those in place, on OSHA's website.

Smokefree air

Every worker deserves to breathe air that is not polluted by tobacco smoke. The American Lung Association has called on all states to pass laws requiring all workplaces to be smokefree


Schools are workplaces, but with special needs. Get more information about tools to help schools improve the air that teachers, staff and other employees breathe.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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