What’s The Origin of OSHA?

Business owners and HR professionals hear all about OSHA’s rules and regulations for businesses, but how did it all begin? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency in the US Department of Labor that was created in 1970, after being signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon.

OSHA’s Mission
It’s goal is to both improve the health and safety of working conditions and also to ensure all employees are aware of their rights. OSHA’s mission is “To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes.”

The Beginnings
Efforts and regulations by the federal government concerning workplace health and safety were sparse before OSHA but there were significant strides that led to the formation of the department.
Massachusetts was the first state to pass safety laws in 1887 and the Department of Labor was created in 1913 by President Taft. In 1933, Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve on a Cabinet when she was appointed Secretary of Labor. There she created the Bureau of Labor Standards that helped states improve workplace safety standards. Much of what they did would be implemented by OSHA.

Passing the OSH Act
As industrial production grew after WWII, accidents increased as well. The “chemical revolution” introduced new chemicals to the environment and people were beginning to take notice of the harm they were causing and people’s exposure to them. In 1968, President Lyndon B Johnson submitted an occupational health and safety bill to congress but was opposed by business leaders. A year later, President Nixon introduced two bills and after much negotiation the OSH Act was passed in 1970. The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a department dedicated to setting and enforcing workplace health and safety standards.

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