OSHA History

Why is OSHA Important to You?

1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire

OSHA began because, until 1970, there were no national laws for safety and health hazards. In 1970, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job – about 38 every day. Some historical events that led to the OSHA law include:

  • The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York City killed 146 employees in one of the worst work-related disasters in our country's history. Factory workers, mainly young female immigrants, died because doors were locked and there were no fire escapes. This tragedy outraged the public, who called for safety and health reform.
  • Production for World War I caused a crisis in workplace safety and health conditions. The government created a Working Conditions Service to help states inspect plants and reduce hazards.
  • In the 1930's, as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal, additional laws increased the federal government's role in job safety and health. But the federal role was mainly to provide service and information to state governments.
  • By the late 1950's, the Federal-State partnership could no longer deal with the growing workforce and increasing hazards. Additional federal laws were enacted, but only covered certain industries.

4,836 workers were killed on the job in 2015 — on average, more than 93 a week or more than 13 deaths every day. Worker injuries and illnesses are down-from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.0 per 100 in 2015. Worker deaths in America are down-on average, from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 13 a day in 2015.

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1. What was the historic tragedy that outraged the public, who called for safety and health reform?

a. World War II
b. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire
c. The New Deal failures
d. The sinking of the Titanic

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The OSH Act

President Nixon signs the OSH Act of 1970.

Many thought that the only solution to the high accident rates was a Federal law with the same rules and enforcement for everyone. On December 29, 1970, President Nixon signed the OSH Act.

This Act created OSHA, the agency, which formally came into being on April 28, 1971. With the creation of OSHA, for the first time, all employers in the United States had the legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees. And, there were now uniform regulations that applied to all workplaces.

What Impact Has OSHA Had On Safety?

  • Worker injuries and illnesses are down-from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.0 per 100 in 2015.
  • Worker deaths in America are down-on average, from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 13 a day in 2015.

2. Who signed the OSHA Act of 1970?

a. President Nixon
b. President Roosevelt
c. President Bush
d. President Johnson

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OSHA's Mission

An OSHA enforcement officer prepares to inspect.

Now that you know a little bit about why OSHA was created, let's talk about OSHA's mission. The mission of OSHA is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

OSHA and its state partners have approximately 2100 inspectors, plus complaint discrimination investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standards writers, and other technical and support personnel spread over more than 200 offices throughout the country. This staff establishes protective standards, enforces those standards, and reaches out to employers and employees through technical assistance and consultation programs.

Some of the things OSHA does to carry out its mission are:

  • developing job safety and health standards and enforcing them through worksite inspections
  • providing training programs and educational materials to increase knowledge about occupational safety and health
  • providing on-site safety and health consultation services for small business
  • promoting the Safety and Health Achievement Program (SHARP) to recognized exemplary employers
  • offering cooperative programs under which employers work cooperatively with OSHA
  • partnering with employers under the OSHA Strategic Partnerships and Alliances (OSP) program
  • recognizing employers who have demonstrated excellence under the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP)

3. To fulfill its mission, OSHA does all of the following, except _____.

a. developing standards and enforcing them through inspections
b. promoting self-enforcement through grants and loans to employers
c. providing on-site safety and health consultation services
d. providing training programs and educational materials

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What Rights Do You Have Under OSHA?

The OSHA Poster
Click to Enlarge

You have the right to:

  • safe and healthful workplace
  • be free from retaliation for exercising safety and health rights
  • raise a safety or health concern with your employer or OSHA, or report a work-related injury or illness, without being retaliated against
  • receive information and training on job hazards, including all hazardous substances in your workplace
  • request an OSHA inspection of your workplace if you believe there are unsafe or unhealthy conditions
  • refuse to do a task if you believe it is unsafe or unhealthful
  • participate (or have your representative participate) in an OSHA inspection and speak in private to the inspector
  • file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days (by phone, online or by mail) if you have been retaliated against for using your rights
  • see any OSHA citations issued to your employer
  • request copies of your medical records, tests that measure hazards in the workplace, and the workplace injury and illness log

We will discuss employee rights in more detail in Module 2.

4. Which of the following is NOT one of your rights under OSHA law?

a. Be free from retaliation for exercising safety
b. Participate in an OSHA inspection
c. Receive safety information and training
d. Refuse to do work if you feel it is not necessary

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Employer Responsibilities

  • Provide employees a workplace free from recognized hazards. It is illegal to retaliate against an employee for using any of their rights under the law, including raising a health and safety concern with you or with OSHA, or reporting a work-related injury or illness.
  • Comply with all applicable OSHA standards.
  • Report to OSHA all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all inpatient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye within 24 hours.
  • Provide required training to all workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand.
  • Prominently display this poster in the workplace.
  • Post OSHA citations at or near the place of the alleged violations.

Note: Free assistance to identify and correct hazards is available to small and medium sized employers, without citation or penalty, through OSHA-supported consultation programs in every state.

5. Each of the following is an employer responsibility, except _____.

a. reporting work-related fatalities and injuries
b. paying an annual protection fee to OSHA
c. displaying the OSHA poster in the workplace
d. complying with all applicable OSHA standards

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