What is OSHA?

Need for Legislation

More than 90 million Americans spend their days on the job. They are our most valuable national resource. Yet, until 1970, no uniform and comprehensive provisions existed for their protection against workplace safety and health hazards.

In 1970, Congress considered annual figures such as these:

  • Job-related accidents accounted for more than 14,000 worker deaths;

  • Nearly 2½ million workers were disabled;

  • Ten times as many person-days were lost from job-related disabilities as from strikes; and

  • Estimated new cases of occupational diseases totaled 300,000.

In terms of lost production and wages, medical expenses and disability compensation, the burden on the nation's commerce was staggering. Human cost was beyond calculation. Therefore, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970 was passed by a bipartisan Congress "to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources."

OSHA's Purpose

Under the Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created within the Department of Labor to:

  • Encourage employers and employees to reduce workplace hazards and to implement new or improve existing safety and health programs;

  • Provide for research in occupational safety and health to develop innovative ways of dealing with occupational safety and health problems;

  • Establish "separate but dependent responsibilities and rights" for employers and employees for the achievement of better safety and health conditions;

  • Maintain a reporting and recordkeeping system to monitor job-related injuries and illnesses;

  • Establish training programs to increase the number and competence of occupational safety and health personnel;

  • Develop mandatory job safety and health standards and enforce them effectively; and

  • Provide for the development, analysis, evaluation and approval of state occupational safety and health programs.

While OSHA continually reviews and redefines specific standards and practices, its basic purposes remain constant. OSHA strives to implement its Congressional mandate fully and firmly with fairness to all concerned.

In all its procedures, from standards development through implementation and enforcement, OSHA guarantees employers and employees the right to be fully informed, to participate actively and to appeal actions.

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