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OSHA History

Learn about the history and highlights of OSHA.

December 29, 1970

President Richard M. Nixon signs the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

May 29, 1971

The first standards are adopted to provide a baseline on the protection of health and safety at work in American soil.

January 17, 1972

The OSHA Training Institute is created to train OSHA official inspectors and train the public.

November-December 1972

Early states approved that South Carolina, Montana, and Oregon develop their own OSHA programs.

May 20, 1975

The free consultation program is created. More than 500,000 companies have participated in the last 30 years.

June 23, 1978

The standard for cotton dust was promulgated by the Head of State to protect 600,000 workers against byssinosis. Cases of “burns of the lungs” thus decreased to 0.1 cases per 10,000 workers.

January 20, 1978

The Supreme Court’s decision establishing staffing criteria for the state provides for “at least as effective” as the federal OSHA.

April 12, 1978

New Directions Program (now known as the Susan Harwood Training Fellowship Program) to encourage the development of occupational safety and health training and education for employers and workers. (More than 1.3 million people trained since 1978.)

November 14, 1978

Publication of lead standard to reduce eligible exposures by three-quarters to protect 835,000 workers from damage to the nervous, urinary and reproductive systems. (Construction standard adopted in 1995.)

February 26, 1980

Supreme Court decision on Whirlpool affirming the right of workers to engage in safety and health activities.

May 23, 1980

The Medical Record and Exposure Standard has been finalized to allow workers and OSHA access to medical and exposure records for exposure to toxic substances maintained by the employer.

July 2, 1980

The Supreme Court’s decision overrules OSHA’s benzene standard, establishing the principle that OSHA standards must address and reduce “significant risks” to workers.

September 12, 1980

Updated fire safety standard and rules for firefighters responsible for the decommissioning of nearly 95% of construction fires.

January 16, 1981

Updated electrical standards to simplify compliance and adopt a performance approach.

July 2, 1982

Voluntary protection programs created to recognize workplaces with exceptional safety and health programs (more than 1,400 sites currently participating).

November 25, 1983

Hazard Communication Standard promulgated to provide information and training and labeling of toxic materials to employers and employees in the manufacturing sector (other industries added on August 24, 1987).

November-December 1984

The first “final approvals” granted to state plans (Virgin Islands, Hawaii and Alaska) giving them the authority to operate with minimal oversight by OSHA.

April 1, 1986

Proposed Trial Penalties Against Union Carbide Plant at Institute, West Virginia, for Gross Violations Involving Respiratory Protection and Keeping Records of Injury and Illness.

December 31, 1987

Grain Handling Facilities Standard adopted to protect 155,000 workers at nearly 24,000 elevators against the risk of fire and explosion of highly combustible grain dust.

January 26, 1989

“Guidelines on the Management of Safety and Health Programs”, voluntary guidelines for effective safety and health programs based on the VPP experience, published.

March 6, 1989

Hazardous waste treatment operation and emergency response standard to protect 1.75 million public and private sector workers exposed to toxic waste from spills or hazardous waste sites.

September 1, 1989

Hazardous Energy Sources Lockout / Labeling Standard published to protect 39 million workers from unanticipated power-up or starting machinery or equipment and prevent 120 deaths and 50,000 injuries each year.

December 6, 1991

Occupational exposure to blood-borne pathogens standards published to prevent more than 9000 infections and 200 deaths per year, protection of 5.6 million workers against AIDS, hepatitis B and other diseases.

October 1, 1992

Education Centers created to make OSHA training courses more widely accessible to employers, workers and the public. Twenty centers train more than 300,000 students each year – more than 370,000 students were trained in 2005 alone.

February 24, 1992

Adoption of the Safety Management Standard for Highly Hazardous Chemicals to Reduce the Risk of Fire and Explosion for 3 Million Workers in 25,000 Workplaces, Preventing More than 250 Deaths and More than 1,500 Injuries Each year.

January 14, 1993

confined spaces-required allowed the standard promulgated to prevent more than 50 deaths and more than 5,000 serious injuries per year for 1.6 million workers who enter confined spaces to 240,000 workplaces each year.

February 1, 1993

Maine 200 Program created to promote the development of safety and health programs in companies with a high number of injuries and illnesses.

June 27, 1994

First specialized consulting software – GoCad – to help employers comply with the OSHA standard on cadmium.

August 9, 1994

The fall protection standard for construction has been revised to save 79 lives and prevent 56,400 injuries each year.

August 10, 1994

Updated the asbestos standard to reduce allowable exposures by half for nearly 4 million workers, preventing 42 cancer deaths each year.

September 4, 1995

Official launch of OSHA’s expanded webpage to provide OSHA standards and compliance support via the Internet.

June 6, 1996

Telephone and fax complaint handling policy adopted to speed up the resolution of complaints about unsafe or unhealthy working conditions.

August 30, 1996

Standard scaffolding published to protect 2.3 million construction workers and prevent 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries per year.

November 9, 1998

OSHA’s Strategic Partnership Program has been launched to improve workplace safety and health through voluntary national and local agreements.

April 19, 1999

Site-specific targeting program to focus OSHA resources where they are most needed on individual sites with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses.

November 14, 2000

Ergonomics program standard promulgated to prevent 460,000 musculoskeletal disorders in more than 102 million workers in 6.1 million industrial workplaces.

January 10, 2001

Jersey’s public employee plan receives final approval.

January 17, 2001

Steel Erection Standard, developed in conjunction with industry groups and unions to prevent 30 deaths and 1,142 injuries per year and save employers nearly $ 40 million a year. This is the first OSHA security standard to have been developed as part of the negotiated regulatory process.

January 18, 2001

The record keeping rule has been revised to improve the system that employers use to track and record workplace injuries and illnesses.

January 18, 2001

In accordance with the Needlestick Prevention and Safety Act, OSHA has revised its standard for bloodborne pathogens to clarify the need for employers to choose safer needle devices.

March 7-8, 2001

Under the auspices of the Congressional Review Act, the Senate voted 56 to 44 to repeal the ergonomics rule. The House follows the next day and votes 223-206 to repeal the rule. This is the first time Congress has exercised its authority under the law to repeal a federal standard.

March 20, 2001

The President signs S.J. Resolution 6, repealing the rule of ergonomics.

April 27, 2001

Occupational Safety and Health Administration celebrates its 30th anniversary; over the last three decades, the number of job-related deaths has halved, and injuries and illnesses have dropped by 40%.

September 11, 2001

OSHA responds to the terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington DC. More than 1,000 OSHA employees in New York and across the country volunteer to help protect workers involved in cleanup and recovery efforts at both sites.

March 1, 2002

The agency is launching the bi-weekly QuickTakes e-newsletter.

April 4, 2002

Secretary Chao unveils a comprehensive plan designed to reduce ergonomic injury through a combination of industry-specific guidelines, strict enforcement, awareness and assistance, and further research.

May 30, 2002

The recovery phase and cleanup of the World Trade Center disaster site is coming to an end. For more than eight months, three million hours of work were recorded on a job site like no other, but only 35 workers missed work days due to injuries and no other life was lost at work.

March 11, 2003

OSHA announces an enhanced enforcement policy targeting employers who have received “high severity” citations.

March 13, 2003

Ergonomics guidelines issued for the nursing home industry.

July 1, 2003

The final rule establishes criteria for recording work-related hearing loss.

October 24, 2003

OSHA hosts the 1000th site to achieve “Star” status in the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

February 4, 2004

OSHA unveils its National Emergency Management Plan, a new directive that clarifies the agency’s policies when responding to national emergencies.

May 28, 2004

Published ergonomic guidelines for retail grocery stores.

August 24, 2004

The final rule sets out whistleblower complaint procedures under the Corporate and Organizational Fraud Liability Act, 2002, also known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

September 2, 2004

Ergonomic guidelines announced for the poultry processing industry.

November 24, 2004

Federal agencies must adopt the requirements for record keeping and reporting of the health and safety of private sector workers.

May 12, 2005

Oregon becomes the 17th state to receive final approval to operate its own occupational safety and health program.

August 31, 2005

OSHA responds to Hurricane Katrina and provides all agency resources to help protect the safety and health of workers responding to the Gulf Coast disaster.

September 22, 2005

OSHA enters into settlement agreement with BP Products North America Inc. The company is paying over $ 21 million in fines following a deadly explosion at its Texas City, Texas facility. This is the largest sanction ever issued by OSHA.

February 27, 2006

OSHA publishes the final rule on hexavalent chromium, lowering the permissible exposure limit (ELP) from 52 to 5 micrograms per cubic centimeter, based on an 8-hour workday.

March 15, 2006

The Senate confirms the appointment of the President to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

November 14, 2006

OSHA US Department of Labor Unveils New Directions for Employee Protection Against Avian Influenza.

February 6, 2007

US Department of Labor OSHA Unveils New Directions on Workplace Preparedness for Pandemic Influenza.