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The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA)


The Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 29, 1970. The purpose of this Act was to ensure worker and workplace safety by requiring employers to provide workplaces that are free from known safety and health hazards, including:

  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Mechanical dangers
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Excessive levels of noise
  • Heat or cold stress

To establish workplace health and safety standards, the Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Additionally, the Act created the independent agency of Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC).

Responsibilities of OSHA, NIOSH and OSHRC

OSHA’s purpose is to create, administer and enforce compliance of workplace standards in all 50 states. As a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA also provides employers with additional standards that they must comply with above the General Duty Clause of the Act that requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards.

NIOSH’s purpose is to conduct research and make recommendations to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. This agency is a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

OSHRC’s purpose is to decide contests of citations or penalties for workplaces that have been assessed for violations found during an OSHA inspection. This Review Commission provides a two-tiered administrative court that:

  • Conducts hearings, receives evidence and renders decisions made by its Administrative Law Judges (ALJs)
  • Provides a discretionary review of decisions made by the ALJs with its panel of Commissioners

Employers are required to report workplace injuries and illnesses to OSHA. The OSH Act continues to work toward improving the health and safety of employees since its inception.

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