Occupational Safety and Health Administration


Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
US-OSHA-Logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed 1970
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Employees 1,000
Agency executive David Michaels
Website
www.osha.gov

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. It was created by Congress of the United States under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, signed by President Richard M. Nixon, on December 30, 1971. Its mission is to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and occupational fatality by issuing and enforcing standards for workplace safety and health. It was also established to create a better workplace for all workers and to ensure the safety of everyone by making and enforcing certain standards that are needed to protect the people. The agency is headed by a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor.

The OSH Act which created OSHA also created the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as a research agency focusing on occupational health and safety. NIOSH is not a part of the U.S. Department of Labor. In Section 22, it says that NIOSH is allowed to create and enforce any safety and health standards needed and to carry out the functions of the Secretary of Health and Human Services as stated in section 20 and 21 of the OSH Act.

OSHA federal regulations cover most private sector workplaces. The OSH Act permits states, such as Michigan (MIOSHA), to develop approved plans as long as they cover public sector employees and they provide protection equivalent to that provided under federal OSHA regulations. In return, a portion of the cost of the approved state program is paid by the federal government. Twenty-two states and territories operate plans covering both the public and private sectors and five—Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and the US Virgin Islands—operate public employee only plans. In those five states, private sector employment remains under federal OSHA jurisdiction.

The OSHA intitates an inspection to a certain place whenever there is a possible danger or a hazard that could lead to an injury or fatality in the future. Also, an inspection could be from worker complaints, accidents that had happened or to follow up a previous inspection.

In 2000, the United States Postal Act made the U.S. Postal Service the only quasi-governmental entity to fall under the purview of OSHA jurisdiction.

Contents

History

OSHA was widely criticized after its inception for confusing, burdensome regulations. A good deal of the early conflict came about because of inconsistent enforcement during OSHA's early years. In addition, businesses were expected to retrofit safety devices on existing equipment and to implement other hazard controls, which often led to considerable expense. Other requirements like mandated training, communication, and extensive documentation were seen as even more burdensome and expensive.[citation needed]

With time, manufacturers of industrial equipment began to include OSHA-compliant safety features on new machinery. Enforcement has become more consistent across jurisdictions, and some of the more outdated or irrelevant rules have been repealed or are not enforced.[citation needed]

University of Cincinnati toxicologist Eula Bingham was appointed as the agency's administrator during the Carter administration. Under Bingham, OSHA began to concentrate more on health hazards like toxic chemicals. Bingham also launched the "New Directions" program, OSHA's first worker training grant program.[citation needed]

The Reagan and Bush administrations saw efforts to weaken OSHA enforcement and rulemaking through Reagan's "deregulation" campaign. However, several of OSHA's most important rules were issued at the same time, including hazard communication (workers' right to know about chemical exposures) and blood-borne pathogens (regulations to protect workers against illnesses such as hepatitis and AIDS). The Reagan administration also launched OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). VPP was OSHA's first foray into voluntary programs and partnerships with industry: management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.[1]

In 2000, OSHA issued an ergonomics standard after ten years of study and debate with business associations such as the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, who were unconvinced that additional regulation was needed. Ergonomic injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome account for one third of all serious injuries suffered by American workers.[citation needed] In March 2001, the Republican-controlled Congress voted to repeal the standard and the repeal was one of the first major pieces of legislation signed by President George W. Bush. Since the repeal of the ergonomics standard, OSHA has issued three ergonomics guidelines, and only a small handful of ergonomic citations under the Act's "general duty" clause.[citation needed]

The Bush administration largely replaced the process of issuing mandatory regulations with voluntary guidelines and put additional resources into other, previously existing voluntary programs, as well as new "Alliance" program.[citation needed] In 2004, the General Accounting Office issued a report recommending that the Agency collect more data from participants in order to better ascertain the benefits of the program. A GAO report released in 1992[citation needed] concluded that employers participating in the program benefited from significant cost reductions in workers' compensation premiums while improving labor productivity. The number of inspections conducted by OSHA improved during the Bush Administration compared to the Clinton years.[citation needed]

It is sometimes believed that the Agency promotes "voluntary compliance." In fact, all employers are required by law to comply with all final published rules promulgated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

In June 2009 David Michaels was nominated by President Obama and later confirmed by the senate as the head of OSHA.

Controversy

Much of the debate about OSHA regulations and enforcement policies revolves around the cost of regulations and enforcement, versus the actual benefit in reduced worker injury, illness and death. A 1995 study of several OSHA standards by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)[2] found that regulated industries as well as OSHA typically overestimate the expected cost of proposed OSHA standards.

OSHA has come under considerable criticism for the ineffectiveness of its penalties, particularly its criminal penalties. OSHA is only able to pursue a criminal penalty when a willful violation of an OSHA standard results in the death of a worker.[2] The maximum penalty is a misdemeanor with a maximum of 6-months in jail.[2][dubious ] In response to the criticism, OSHA, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, has pursued several high-profile criminal prosecutions for violations under the Act, and has announced a joint enforcement initiative between OSHA and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which has the ability to issue much higher fines than OSHA. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats, labor unions and community safety and health advocates are attempting to revise the OSH Act to make it a felony with much higher penalties to commit a willful violation that results in the death of a worker. Some local prosecutors are charging company executives with manslaughter and other felonies when criminal negligence leads to the death of a worker[citation needed].

During its more than 30 years of existence, OSHA has secured only 12 criminal convictions.[3]

OSHA has been accused of being more devoted to the numbers of inspections than to actual safety. Industry associations and unions have resorted to court action to force OSHA to promulgate new standards such as the Hexavalent Chromium standard. OSHA has also been criticized for taking decades to develop new regulations. Speaking about OSHA on the specific issue of combustible dust explosions:[4]

"[Carolyn] Merritt was appointed to the Chemical Safety Board by President Bush. Asked what her experience has been with regard to safety regulations in the Bush administration, Merritt says, 'The basic disappointment has been this attitude of no new regulation. They don't want industry to be pestered. In some instances, industry has to be pestered in order to comply.' "

Regulatory impact

Here are some of the changes in industrial safety regulation brought about by OSHA:

  1. Guards on all moving parts - By 1970, there were guards to prevent inadvertent contact with most moving parts that were accessible in the normal course of operation. With OSHA, use of guards was expanded to cover essentially all parts where contact is possible.
  2. Permissible exposure limits (PEL) - Maximum concentrations of chemicals stipulated by regulation for chemicals and dusts. They cover around 600 chemicals. Most are based on standards issued by other organizations in 1968 or before.
  3. Personal protective equipment (PPE) - broader use of respirators, gloves, coveralls, and other protective equipment when handling hazardous chemicals; goggles, face shields, ear protection in typical industrial environments
  4. Lockout/tagout - In the 1980s, requirements for locking out energy sources (securing them in an "off" condition) when performing repairs or maintenance
  5. Confined space - In the 1990s, specific requirements for air sampling and use of a "buddy system" when working inside tanks, manholes, pits, bins, and similar enclosed areas
  6. Hazard Communication (HazCom [5]) - Also known as the "Right to Know" standard, was issued as 29CFR1910.1200 on November 25, 1983 (48 FR 53280), requires developing and communicating information on the hazards of chemical products used in the workplace.
  7. Process Safety Management (PSM [6]) - Issued in 1992 as 29CFR1910.119 in an attempt to reduce large scale industrial accidents. Although enforcement of the standard has been spotty, its principles have long been widely accepted by the petrochemical industry.
  8. Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP [7])- In 1990, OSHA issued a standard designed to prevent health care (and other) workers from being exposed to bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B and HIV.
  9. Excavations and Trenches - OSHA regulations[8] specify that trenches and excavations wherein workers are working 5 feet or more down must be provided with safeguards in addition to proper sloping and storage of excavated material in order to prevent collapses/cave-ins.[9]
  10. Exposure to asbestos - OSHA has established requirements in 29 CFR 1910.1001 for occupational exposure to asbestos. These requirements apply to most workplaces - most notably excepted is construction work. "Construction work" means work for construction, alteration and/or repair including painting and decorating. Occupational exposure requirements for asbestos in construction work can be found in 29 CFR 1926.1101.
  11. Mandatory Training - It is currently mandatory in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island that all workers on a public jobsite must have a minimum of 10 hours of OSHA authorized safety training. [10]

See also

Portal icon Government of the United States portal

References

OSHA Official 1910.1030 Bloodborne Pathogen Regulation

External links


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