Everybody is entitled to a safe workplace. To this end, there was an agency established that oversaw the requirement that employers provide working conditions to their employees that are free of known dangers. The agency responsible for enforcing such regulations is called the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is better known as the OSHA.
The Beginnings of OSHA
Functioning as an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA came into existence on April 28, 1971, as a result of the Occupational Safety and Health Act becoming effective. The organization came into existence with the purpose of ensuring that employers provide employees with an environment free from recognized hazards that include mechanical dangers, unsanitary conditions, exposure to toxic chemicals, and excessive noise levels.
Whistle-blower Program Protects Workers
Until the creation of the OSHA, efforts by the U.S. federal government to ensure workplace safety and health were unsubstantial and minimal. However, with the advent of OSHA, employees were protected by the Whistle-blower Protection Program. This ensures employees can report unsafe conditions without fear of reprimand from their employer. OSHA sends Compliance Safety and Health Officers to workplaces for routine enforcement of the agency’s guidelines. These representatives conduct inspections and assess fines if there has been a regulatory violation. Compliance Safety and Health Officers can also appear in response to employee complaints or workplace incidents.
In the first year of reporting accidents, 1994, a survey revealed a grand total of 6.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported, resulting in a rate of 8.4 cases for every group of 100 full-time workers. Since then, the numbers have been declining significantly. In 2015, the number of non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses had dropped to 3.0 cases per 100 full-time workers. While it isn’t possible to align a clear correlation between the drop in workplace-related injuries and the OSHA regulations, as it could also be related to workplace safety awareness from the industry. It seems likely though that OSHA regulations have had a significant positive impact on safety in the workplace.