OSHA at 50: Five Decades of Workplace Safety and Health

By Stephanie Stevens and Stephanie Spann

Established in 1970 by Congress within the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) works hard to ensure the safety and health of employees by setting and enforcing standards for working conditions and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. It's the 50th anniversary of OSHA's founding, and we're taking a look back at how far we've come.

With the American workplace often deemed hazardous and tens of thousands of workers suffering job-related injuries and deaths, Congress develped and signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law.

1971: Occupational Safety and Health Administration established  to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance

Knowledge about asbestos and its relationship to lung cancer was suspected in the 1940s, confirmed in the 1950s, and Mesothelioma, the most commonly known asbestos-related cancer, was discovered in the 1960s. As a result, the first OSHA standard on asbestos was adopted.

1972: OSHA Training Institute established to train compliance officers, federal personnel and general public on workplace safety and health.

U.S. Supreme Court rules that the OSH Act provides American workers with the right to refuse work deemed hazardous or causing serious injury without fear of retaliation.

The OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC) at the University of California San Diego was established.

The Alliance Program was created to foster OSHA’s relationships with organizations committed to workplace safety.

 The Annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction launched.

OSHA co-created #MySafeSummerJob, a social media campaign to educate young workers on job safety, rights in the workplace and voicing their concerns.

Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT) authorized by OSHA at the UC San Diego OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC).

BEYOND 2020:
The new decade began with a challenge unlike any other faced by the U.S. workforce as the COVID pandemic impacted workplace safety and health in unprecedented ways. OSHA acted quickly to protect the nation’s workers through outreach and education efforts, ensuring compliance and collaboration with federal, state and local authorities. 

Even with the improvements to workplace safety over the last 50 years – and in responding to a pandemic – OSHA’s mission is as important as ever. Please join OSHA and in making a renewed commitment to keeping workers safe and healthy.

For more information on safety training programs, please visit the OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC) at the University of California San Diego website.


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