Safety and OSHA News

Should OSHA regulate the NFL?

The serious ramifications of NFL players suffering concussions have received more and more attention. Now a professor of environmental health sciences is suggesting that OSHA “step up” to the challenge of making the sport safer for players. 

A recent article in The Arizona Law Review, The NFL as a Workplace: The Prospect of Applying Occupational Health and Safety Law to Protect NFL Workers, considers what might happen if professional football players were subject to government regulations. Among its authors: Adam Finkel, professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

The article says OSHA clearly has the authority to regulate the NFL. Of course, there are many reasons why that hasn’t happened.

Despite the lack of previous government action, the paper suggests there are several ways it could happen:

  • OSHA could develop a bulletin identifying risks associated specifically with the NFL workplace. The bulletin could cover a single issue such as concussions.
  • NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) could perform a Health Hazard Evaluation of an NFL workplace.
  • OSHA could advise NFL clubs through its On-Site Consultation Program and help the teams establish injury and illness prevention programs.
  • OSHA could issue a guidance document spelling out what it believes constitutes an NFL club’s general duty to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.
  • The NFL (or its players’ union) and OSHA could form an Alliance, a program that works with employers and employees to promote worker safety and health.
  • The NFL clubs could enroll in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program, in which management, labor and OSHA work cooperatively to prevent injuries through a system focused on hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, management commitment and worker involvement.
  • The NFL or its players’ union could invite OSHA or NIOSH to review their collective bargaining agreement.
  • OSHA could enter into an enforceable partnership with the NFL and its players’ union. This would be similar to what several industry groups proposed to OSHA in the late 1990s and would include binding promises concerning worker health.
  • OSHA could issue citations under the General Duty Clause since few if any specific safety or health standards apply to hazards routinely affecting NFL players.
  • OSHA could establish a special emphasis program under which it could inspect some or all NFL workplaces for General Duty Clause violations as well as violations of specific standards.
  • OSHA could issue regulations for the NFL in one of six ways: negotiated rulemaking; via a petition from an interested party; as the result of a lawsuit; at the state OSHA level; by Congressional requirement; or create a standard specific to either a particular injury (ex. head trauma) or one affecting various hazards found only in the NFL.

The paper says it’s most likely player health issues will continue to be addressed via collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the teams and players, with or without OSHA’s involvement.

At the same time, the authors point out the wide variety of ways for OSHA to intervene without formally regulating the NFL.

Do you think OSHA should be involved in ensuring the safety and health of NFL players? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Print Friendly

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest safety news and insights delivered to your inbox.


  1. Charles says:

    OSHA needs to stay out of sports. and Movie making.

    • savannah says:

      Why are employees in those industries not entitled to a safe work environment like everyone else?
      “Worker Protection is the Law of the Land – You have the right to a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or otherwise harmed at work. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. The OSH Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training and assistance to employers and workers.”

  2. ramcconn says:

    Players should be tested like independent contractors with the teams having contractors employee safety programs. The individual teams should be subjected to OSHA regulations for the safety of non player employees (staff) who work At the offices and stadiums controlled by the teams
    Visitors or fans should be protected as well through safety plans subject to OSHA and other guidelines just like any other corporation or business

  3. Charles says:

    The last thing any sport needs is OSHA Bureaucrats messing the sport up. People want to see more contact not less of it.

  4. Fernando says:

    Hell NO
    They have enough to do as it is.

    The billion dollar sports world can and should manage it.
    Instead of just filling their pockets.

  5. No OSHA should not regulate the NFL. The players are entitled to a safe work environment. But by the nature of the game there are inherent risks. The Players Union has made some positive impact on better protection of the players.

    There are some industries that need government regulation, but the NFL isn’t one of them.

    • Savannah says:

      You realize that the NFL includes employees other than the players, right?! Not all those people on the sidelines, in the locker rooms, and the administrative staff have agreed to the risk of being injured at work.

  6. Interesting article, all 78 pages. Savannah, this article interchanges “athlete/player” for “NFL Workers”
    The above suggest several ways of improving player safety and health, well this is implemented and high standards are already in place. Licensed Certified Athletic Trainers who advocate for the safety, well-being and care of ALL athletes. ATs in addition to Referees make sure the field conditions are safe. Outside consultants; spotters looking for out for the athletes, medical providers assist with providing athlete care, agents looking out for their clients, along with players association looking out for players. Coaches who work with athletes on proper technique and providing ongoing training for injury avoidance. Equipment manufacturers for helmets, pads and vendors for cooling, sports drinks all looking out for player safety. The Joint Commission on Sports Medicine & Science involves all disciplinary’s dealing with athletes in sports, studying ways to improve player safety. So less government not more. These are highly specialized multi-million dollar “workers” keeping them healthy and safe is the best interest.

  7. Steven Boyd says:

    No stay out of the NFL period and stick to workplace safety.

Speak Your Mind