On December 29, 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was enacted on April 28, 1971.

In its first half century, OSHA has helped transform America's workplaces in ways that have significantly reduced workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. Established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA opened its doors on April 28, 1971. During its initial decade, OSHA issued the first standards for asbestos, lead, carcinogens, and cotton dust. The OSHA Training Institute, safety and health training grants, the On-Site Consultation Program, State Plans, and whistleblower protections for workplace safety were also established.

In the 1980s, the U.S. Supreme affirmed that workers have the right to refuse unsafe tasks. The 1980s also saw the creation of the Voluntary Protection Programs, new standards on safety testing and certification of workplace equipment, and important worker protections for combustible grain dust, trenching, noise, and hazardous energy.

In the 1990s, workers began to receive safety and health training through the first OSHA Education Centers, and the agency expanded collaboration with employers through its Strategic Partnership Program.

In recent years, the agency has issued standards for silica dust, cranes, confined spaces, and the classification and labeling of work-related chemicals.

Current issues

2020 began with a challenge unlike any other faced by the American workforce as the coronavirus pandemic impacted workplace safety and health in unprecedented ways. OSHA offered temporary guidance and some states enacted emergency regulations for workplaces to keep employees safe. As a new administration took over the White House, President Joe Biden appointed new officials.     Doug Parker, the former head of Cal/OSHA was nominated by Biden on April 9, 2021 to lead OSHA, steps into the most pressurized and politicized atmosphere in the agency’s 50-year history.

In a recent ISHN exclusive feature, Editor-at-Large Dave Johnson writes: “OSHA, a minor agency in the landscape of the federal bureaucracy, has less than a $600 million budget and less than 1,000 inspectors (vs EPA’s $9 billion budget and 14,000 workers). Due to the pandemic’s toll on the U.S. workforce, the agency has attracted a precedent-setting amount of attention from the White House and the national media.” Read this article here: https://www.ishn.com/articles/112937-former-calosha-chief-doug-parker-to-steer-osha-through-politics-media-scrutiny

Send feedback to OSHA

In this month’s issue, we have an excelled editorial by former Fed official Edward Stern, who worked for the Department of Labor in various roles for more than 40 years. He believes it’s important for business owners, employees and employers alike to submit suggestions and areas of improvement to OSHA. He has received plenty of great advice from people who are not officials that OSHA has implemented over the years. It’s worth a read. Stern says, “The big guys aren’t the only ones with good ideas.”