Who is not covered by OSHA?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not cover self-employed individuals, immediate family members of farm employers with no outside employees, and employees of state and local governments, but they may have equivalent state or local regulations governing workplace safety and health. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency responsible for safeguarding the health and safety of workers across various industries in the United States. However, OSHA’s jurisdiction is not absolute, and there are specific categories of workers and employment conditions that fall outside the scope of OSHA regulations. Healthcare professionals should know the exceptions to OSHA regulations as they can impact workplace safety standards and expectations.

Exception to OSHA Coverage

OSHA regulations do not extend to self-employed individuals. Self-employment can be in a wide range of professional fields, including but not limited to consultants, freelancers, independent contractors, and small business owners operating without employees other than themselves. The rationale behind this exclusion is rooted in OSHA’s focus on employee protection. Since self-employed individuals do not employ others, they are presumed to bear the responsibility for their own safety and health in the workplace. However, self-employed professionals should recognize that while OSHA may not regulate their own practices, state and local regulations may still apply to them, and compliance with these regulations is typically recommended to ensure their own safety.

OSHA also does not cover the immediate family members of farm employers who do not employ individuals outside their family circle. This exclusion is particularly relevant to the agricultural sector, where family farms constitute a portion of the industry. Immediate family members include spouses, children, step-children, parents, step-parents, siblings, and in-laws. The rationale for this exclusion is largely based on the familial nature of these operations. OSHA recognizes that immediate family members working together on a farm tend to have a unique understanding of the dynamics and risks associated with the farm, which can lead to a more informal, non-employer-employee relationship.

A further exception to OSHA coverage pertains to employees of state and local governments. OSHA’s jurisdiction is primarily directed toward private sector employers and federal agencies, and it does not extend to state and local governments. These entities, while subject to health and safety regulations, are typically overseen by state-run occupational safety and health programs. These state programs often adopt OSHA standards but may also incorporate additional requirements or regulations tailored to specific state or local needs. In cases where states have not developed their own programs, public employees might still be subject to OSHA standards as they apply to public employers at the federal level.

Sample Scenarios Where Healthcare Professionals Encounter OSHA Exemptions

Healthcare professionals need to understand these exclusions, as they may encounter situations where they provide services in environments or with individuals not covered by OSHA regulations. The healthcare sector, which spans a wide range of settings from hospitals and clinics to home healthcare and private practices, frequently requires collaboration with various types of workers and employers. Some scenarios in which healthcare professionals might encounter these OSHA exemptions include collaborating with self-employed colleagues, providing home healthcare for farm families and being employed by state or local government health departments.

Healthcare professionals who work in private practice or collaborate with consultants or freelance colleagues should recognize that these self-employed individuals may not be subject to OSHA regulations. In such cases, the responsibility for ensuring a safe work environment may largely rest on the healthcare professionals themselves. When providing home healthcare services to families engaged in farming, be aware that immediate family members of farm employers are exempted. If the healthcare professional is not part of the immediate family, OSHA regulations would not apply to the farm employer, and they would need to rely on other relevant regulations to ensure a safe work environment. Healthcare professionals working for state or local government health departments should be informed about their employer’s specific safety and health regulations. While these government entities may comply with OSHA standards, state-run programs could incorporate additional requirements or variations that differ from OSHA regulations.


OSHA, as the principal federal agency responsible for workplace safety and health, helps to ensure the well-being of workers across diverse industries, including healthcare. However, there are exceptions to OSHA’s jurisdiction, such as self-employed individuals, immediate family members of farm employers with no outside employees, and public employees of state and local governments. Healthcare professionals should be aware of these exclusions and the potential implications they may have for safety and health standards in their respective workplaces. They should understand and adhere to relevant safety and health regulations, whether governed by OSHA or other state and local authorities. Encouraging safety within their practice or healthcare facility is necessary, as it not only ensures compliance with applicable regulations but also enhances the overall well-being of both healthcare workers and the patients they serve. This understanding of OSHA’s scope and its exemptions is necessary for maintaining the highest standards of safety and health in the healthcare profession.