Way back in 1970, the United States federal government passed the OSH Act. The OSH Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and all the OSHA safety regulations you're familiar with.
We'll tell you more about the OSH Act at the origins of today's OSHA and the OSHA standards in this article.
This article is just one in a series of articles that we call OSHA Basics. The OSHA Basics articles cover fundamental issues related to OSHA like the OSH Act that this article covers. See the list and links at the bottom of this article for a list of our OSHA Basics articles.
US president Richard Nixon signed the bill making the OSH Act law on December 29, 1970. The OSH Act actually went into effect on April 28, 1971, and that's the day that OSHA officially came into being.
The reason for writing and passing the OSH Act, creating OSHA, and writing and enforcing OSHA's regulatory standards (as well as all of OSHA's other activities) was to improve occupational safety and health in American work places.
Congress put it this way:
...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.
And here's how the OSH Act itself puts it in its Section 1, Introduction:
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 OSH Act applies to private-sector employees (not federal employees) in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. Those jurisdictions include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island, Johnston Island, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands (as defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act).
There are 34 different sections of the OSH Act. You can see a list of all the OSH Act sections here.
We'll give you a highlight of a few of those sections below.
Section 6, Occupational Safety and Health Standards: Where the authority for creating OSHA's standards comes from.
Section 8, Inspections, Investigations, and Recordkeeping: The source of OSHA's powers to inspect and investigate workplaces as well as OSHA's requirements that employers maintain records.
Section 9, Citations: The section of the OSH Act giving OSHA the ability to issue citations for workplace safety and health violations.
Section 21, Training and Employee Education: This section of the OSH Act covers the creation of training and other educational material for employees.
Section 22, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: The section of the OSH Act that calls for the creation of NIOSH. Check the About Us webpage at NIOSH to learn more about them.
Section 24, Statistics: This section gives OSHA the power to gather and analyze data.
That's our introduction of the OSH act that created OSHA. We hope you found it helpful and interesting.
If you liked this article on the OSH Act, you may be excited to know this is just one in a series of articles we've dubbed OSHA Basics. Scan the list below to see if there are other OSHA-based topics you'd like to know more about:
Also, please let us know if there's a topic you'd like us to cover in this series.