Happy Birthday OSHA!
OSHA has a birthday? Indeed, and it’s 50 years old today.
Fifty years ago, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
To be fair, there are some who believe OSHA is a 4-letter word and there are others who believe OSHA is a small town in Wisconsin!
As a former OSHA Investigator, I’ve felt the implications by those who consider it a 4-letter word and many others who consider the agency and its codes of Federal Regulations a critical help-aid in keeping the American workforce whole and healthy.
Today, I am thinking of three things:
- Unlike my parents or grandparents before them, I’ve never known work-life without OSHA. I’ve dedicated 26 years (and counting) of my life to workplace safety and health. OSHA is a government agency of which I am unabashedly fond and proud.
- Consensus standards were used to write those first enforceable OSHA standards. That’s right, contrary to popular belief a bunch of health and safety professionals didn’t huddle in a Washington D.C. basement hammering out the regulations for President Nixon to sign. Rather, OSHA pulled from consensus agency text to form law. Have you ever read the fine print within an OSHA regulation? Take a read of 1910 Subpart E-Exit Routes and Emergency Planning as an example. There you’ll find reference to the NFPA, Life Safety Code and the International Fire Code. You’ll also find the revision dates of the law which is sort of handy when you are challenged by, “The laws change so often, how do I keep up?!”. Hint: They don’t change often.
- I think of the real people who inspired health and safety laws. As OSHA on the Federal and State level developed over the past 50 years and as workplaces and their hazards evolved, new regulations were proposed and adopted; many of them written in blood. I, myself co-authored Minnesota Rule 5207.1000- Operation of Mobile Earth-Moving Equipment. It was adopted in 1999 and has been enforceable by Minnesota OSHA Investigators ever since. Nick was the inspiration for that law. I had investigated his workplace death two years earlier and it left a mark on me; I didn’t want to see what happened to Nick happen to anyone else. My former co-worker, Nancy did the same. She authored a workplace safety law she affectionately calls the, “Ryan and Brian law” based on a workplace fatality she investigated. Many, many OSHA regulations are built upon real stories of death, illness, and injury coupled with the persons who carried those stories and turned tragedy into advocacy.
Fifty years my friends-- truly we are just getting started! There is much to be proud of and there is much more work for us in this profession to do. Thank you for all you do in the protection and safe-keeping of the workforce.