The Occupational Safety and Health Act

Have you ever feared for your safety at work, chances are you haven’t, but this wasn’t the case up until the late sixties and the Nixon administration? The Nixon administration feared for the workingman especially in the booming of the modern American industrialism. Nixon was concerned that the workingman would be pushed aside and forgot about as machines took over, but he planned to prevent all that from happening with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The purpose of this act was to prevent the times when the workingman was looked at as a tool that could be thrown around and disregarded as in the early part of the century.

In order to understand the purpose of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the history of industry in the United States must be examined. Before 1800 there was no industry in the U. S. Many families lived and worked on farms and were self-sufficient. It was not until the Industrial Revolution when this country began to feel the growth and impact of industry. The biggest change was the transition from man power to machine power. This led to the creation of the factory, which brought along many hazards to its workers.Any injuries or deaths that occurred as result of the hazards were just figured as part of the process (Firenze 9).

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Contrary to what some may believe, the government intended on protecting the employer in injury or death of employee situations. There were doctrines of Common law that were the only rules of the industrial community for almost a century. The three doctrines were the Fellow Servant Rule, Contributory Negligence, and the Assumption of Risk. The Fellow Servant Rule stated that the employer was not liable for injury to employee that resulted from negligence of a fellow employee.

Contributory Negligence stated that the employer was not liable if the employee was injured due to his own negligence. Lastly, the Assumption of Risk doctrine said that the employer was not liable because the employee took the job with full knowledge of the risks and hazards involved (Firenze, 11). Near the end of the nineteenth century, industrial legislation was born regarding the safety in factories in the United States. In 1877, Massachusetts legislation passed a bill ordering all employers to put safeguards on hazardous machinery.In the same year Massachusetts passed the Employer’s Liability Law that made employers liable for damages when a worker was injured. These laws in Massachusetts were ineffective though, courts would constantly rule in favor of Common law (Firenze 10). Even when advancements were taken to help the employee more, the federal government shot them down.

Around 1910 the first Workman’s Compensation law was passed in Wisconsin (some argue for New Jersey). At first, the Workman’s Compensation laws could not be enforced by states for they were seen as unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment (Firenze 11).After these small efforts to save the employee, the movements for more protection began to snowball. This effect led to the emergence of Federal Safety Legislation.

Some of the acts that were passed were: the Longshoreman’s and Harbor Worker Compensation Act of 1958, the Walsh-Haley Public Contracts Act of 1936, the Service Contracts Act of 1965, the Coal Mine Safety Act of 1969, and the Construction Safety Act of 1969. These all led up to the formation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Firenze 12). Even though it may seem that appropriate action was being taken there was still a great problem.”Every year in this country, some 14,000 deaths can be attributed to work-related injuries or illnesses. Because of accidents or diseases sustained on the job, some 250 million man-days of labor are lost annually” (Nixon 74A, 1969). Something had to be done on a larger scale.

Nixon realized that and said, “The comprehensive Occupational Safety and Health Act will correct some of the important deficiencies of earlier approaches” (Nixon 74A). On December 29, 1970 the 91st Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The Act itself states,An act to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes. A breakdown of the requirements of this Act serves for better understanding. First, the Act encourages employers and employees to reduce the number of occupational health hazards.Initiation by both the employer and employee to strive for safety is needed for existing and new programs to flourish. Second, the Act states that both the employer and employee have responsibilities that are separate but dependent on each other.

Meaning that the employer has the responsibility to make working conditions proper and to teach the employees the correct working procedures. The employees have the responsibility to learn the right way to conduct themselves and to obey all standards set by their employer.Third, under this Act the Secretary of Labor is ordered to set the standards for occupational safety and health applicable to business and effecting interstate commerce. Also, he is to create the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission for enforcing the Act.

Fourth, the Act specifies that it is of utmost importance that the Administration, once created, must build on advances already made in the Safety and Health field. This is important because as the industry grows so will the hazards in the workplace. Keeping caught up with the problems that are created by innovation will keep problematic cases at a minimum.Fifth, the Act also seeks to learn more about the field of occupational safety and health, including the psychological factors involved; as well as developing new methods, techniques and approaches for dealing with the problems of occupational safety and health. Sixth, one of the major concerns of the act itself is the surprising discovery of disease in the workplace. It is its purpose to discover these diseases and other health problems so that they can be prevented in the future. Seventh, the Act states that training programs will be created so that the number of competent people of occupational safety and health will rise.

With this rise comes the spread of occupational safety and health to the businesses themselves. This is an obvious need that will help the Administration grow and develop. Eighth, there must be a way that the government can be sure that employers and employees alike will comply with the act. Therefore, there must be sufficient ways to enforce this act. This is exactly what it calls for. One of the important enforcement stipulations is that it is prohibited to give advance notification of any inspection. If it is violated, the individual faces punishment.Ninth, the Act encourages States to assume full responsibility for the Administration and enforcement of their policies by providing grants to the States according to their needs.

Tenth, the Act asks for an appropriate method of gathering statistics to help the Administration. Finding out about what is happening in the workplace helps to developing new techniques and methods of protection (OSH Act of 1970). The Act, under section five, specifically addresses the duties of that the employer and employee have.”The employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from reorganized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees. The employer must also comply with occupational safety and health standards specified under this act. ” Conversely, the employee must comply with the standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued to protect his immediate safety. There are specific penalties if the employer or employee do not comply.

Attached is table 1, which charts the acts and the various consequences.”If violations are found penalties can range up to more than ten thousand dollars and criminal sanctions, depending on the nature of the defense” (Bennett-Alexander 355). Once again, OSHA makes unannounced visits to the businesses, so the only preparation for an OSHA visit is to simply comply with the rules every day. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration created under the OSH Act of 1970 still stands today. It is the governing body that looks over many categories of business and commerce in America. There are many departments that make up the OSHA.They are; the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, the Compliance Programs division, the Construction and Engineering division (which helps the organization itself as well as the business world), the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health, the Federal/State Operations division, the Health Standards Programs division, the Information and Consumer Affairs division, the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, the Safety Standards division, and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (“Workplace Safety and Health” 240-243).The Administration addresses a plethora of safety and health issues in American commerce.

Just about anything that seems dangerous at a job site is likely to be under OSHA regulations. For example, there are regulations for protective clothing, the protection of eyes, face and body, procedures for using power tools, and procedures for using kitchen utensils. The list goes on and on (U. S. Department of Health Education Welfare 83). In order to find out every little item that needs to be addressed, the Administration funds studies that target certain conditions. One study, done by Harvey P. Utech Sc.

D, was focused on the protective clothing standards for firefighters. He first observed a few things. One, firefighters work under emergency conditions so they can not be expected to follow every precaution. Two, firefighters spend most of their time working in an uncontrolled environment. His job is to actually control his environment. Therefore he looks to his clothing for protection in order to ward of the hazards long enough to do his job.

Three, it is very strenuous work. The clothing is not very light, nor does climbing up flights of stairs make it any easier to do their job in a hurry.So, it is easy to see already that firefighters have a unique job. The main problem that Utech addresses is the fact that every firefighter is given the same equipment. The fire truck driver wears the same protective clothing as the guy who runs into the burning building. He concludes that the ones who run into the burning building should have more advanced outfits which protect them more effectively from the smoke. Smoke inhalation was found to be the biggest cause of injury and illness to firefighters. His study also found that the breathing apparatuses became damaged after several minutes in extreme heat (U.

S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare 213). It is studies like this that help OSHA to raise standards in order to protect the people in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act has been very effective in decreasing the amount of illnesses and injuries suffered in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry has seen a substantial drop in annual illness and injury rate from 10. 9% in 1989 to 8. 7% in 1996.

Similar drops are apparent in other industries.In the mining industry, illness and injury rates have dropped from 8. 5% in 1989 to 5. 4% in 1996. Rates have dropped from 14. 3% in 1989 to 9.

9% in 1996 in the construction industry. That is a substantial decrease in a sometimes very dangerous profession. These numbers are more than enough evidence for anyone who is questioning the importance of OSHA (BLS). Like anything in this world, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is not perfect. The changing industrial community contributes to its demise. As society changes so does everything else related to people, thus industry changes.This had led to various efforts over the years to try and reform the Administration.

Republicans are pushing one effort through Congress right now. This reform bill proposes that government managers should be prohibited to impose a quota of workplace citations on their inspectors (Morrissey). Republicans feel that the existing quotas placed on inspectors cause employers to be treated unfairly. Another bill would give money to states to provide voluntary, on-site consultations for small businesses about workplace safety without issuing citations for any violations found (Morrissey).

Small businesses sometimes cannot handle the fine placed on them for violation of an OSHA standard. This would be a good way to save small businesses form drowning. Since the first machine parts were put in motion, the United States has felt the impact of industry. Not only has it felt the impact, but also it has managed to become the most industrialized country in the world. Therefore, it was important that we made industry safe for our people.

That is exactly what the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 did.I has threatened employers with anything from fines to life in prison if workers are not taken care of. This act has doe away with the times of faceless workers. It has become the best friend of the employee and even the employer if they work together.

As put by President Richard M. Nixon, “This Administration can do much to improve the American worker. Employers and employees alike must be committed to the prevention of accident and disease and alert to every opportunity for promoting that end” (Nixon 75A).