Every American has heard of The Bill of Rights, but are you familiar with the “safety bill of rights?” This was the original name of what was to eventually become the Occupational Safety and Health Act, introduced almost 45 years ago.
Prior to 1970, American workers were on their own in terms of their own personal safety. Industry as a whole protected itself, not its workers. In the 25 years prior to the enactment of the bill, more than 400,000 workers were killed on the job and over 50 million suffered disabling injuries.
With the urging of Senator Harrison A. Williams and Representative William A. Steiger, on December 29, 1070, President Richard M. Nixon signed The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, sparking the reform of safety conditions in all aspects of safety.
The act established three permanent agencies:
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with the US Labor Dept. to set and enforce workplace safety and health stands
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, to conduct research on occupational safety and health
- The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), an independent agency to resolve employer challenged actions.
The act, for the first time, established a nationwide, federal program to protect the American workforce from job related death, injury and disease, but the first ten years were wrought with criticism and doubt, but, in the eyes of big business leaders, OSHA exhibited inconsistent decision-making when enforcing the newly established health and safety regulations, and they put up great opposition to OSHA’S mandates.
The agency has gone through some ups and downs over the past 45 years, and some of the feelings from big-business has remained the same, but since the passage of the Act in 1970, serious workplace injury and illness has declined from 11 per 100 workers in 1972, to 3.6 per 100 workers in 2009.
OSHA safety and health standards have prevented countless work-related injuries, and will continue to do so with their originally titled “safety bill of rights.”