This research paper will begin with an introduction to familiarize the reader with general information about OSHA, and its current scope of power. I will be analyzing the social and political conditions surrounding OSHA’s founding, as well as the reasoning behind the creation of the program. Once the basis for the program has been established, I will go on to explaining the agency’s changes in its goals and operations throughout its existence, making sure to include court and presidential influence.
I will then, based upon my research, argue for and against OSHA’s current existence as a federal program, and choose, in my opinion, the most logical solution for the future of OSHA. My conclusions will reiterate my research findings on the program’s present state through statistics and facts, and further inform the reader of the modern relevancy and activity of OSHA.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is a Federal Regulatory commission, with many state partners, that had a budget of 583 billion USD in the fiscal year 2012. According to the agency’s website, “With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. (About OSHA Page) Their mission, as a subsidiary of the US Department of Labor, is to enforce state and federal guidelines for workplace safety enacted by Congress (and respective state legislative houses) where applicable, on the private sector, and on government corporations, examples being the United States Postal Service, and Amtrak, where the safety of employees is at risk. (OSHA Workers Information Page) The Social and Political climate of the late 60s is one of the reasons that OSHA exists today.
It was a period where change was popular, and “a number of high-profile disasters coupled with a growing environmental movement brought workplace injuries and illnesses into the national spotlight and put pressure on the federal government to take action. ”(Riley, 3)There was no standard for the quality of working conditions in the states before the OSH act, the was a bipartisan bill that was signed by Nixon just two days before Christmas in 1970 to create OSHA. About OSHA Page) The most formidable of reasons why OSHA was created was the sheer amount of deaths and injuries caused by unsafe workplaces. An estimated 14,000 Americans died every year from workplace related injuries and illnesses in the late 60s. These deaths affected thousands of families in the united states, and many of those families pressured congress to pass legislation to combat this injustice. (MacLaury, 3) OSHA was created in 1971 by the OSH act, originally promoted by the large workers unions of the time, including the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union. Riley, 3)
According to the agency’s website,“The Occupational Safety and Health Act, also known as the OSH Act, was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training and assistance to workers and employers. (About OSHA Page) OSHA’s current mission is to protect American workers from “Preventable Tragedies”. In the words of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, “Every day in America, 13 people go to work and never come home. Every year in America, nearly 4 million people suffer a workplace injury from which some may never recover. These are preventable tragedies that disable our workers, devastate our families, and damage our economy. American workers are not looking for a handout or a free lunch.
They are looking for a good day’s pay for a hard day’s work. They just want to go to work, provide for their families, and get home in one piece. “(About OSHA page) The goal of OSHA is to prevent death and other unpleasant ailments from ever falling upon those that are a part of the American Workforce. (OSHA: Expanding Role In The Workplace) Their goals since their founding have remained essentially the same, with a few small changes, as the administration is only 40 years old.
The decline of unions in the last 50 years is one of the largest social and political movements that the organization has dealt with, OSHA has accepted this reality and evolved over time to engage the issues involved. In 1970, the percentage of American workers in unions was roughly 30 percent. Today, it has nearly fallen to 10 percent. (OSHA: Expanding Role In The Workplace) Union declines have caused some workers to depend on other organizations, like OSHA, to protect their safety rights and needs.
Affirmative Action satisfies their racial and gender related right to equality, additionally multiple independent regulating councils have formed to ensure safety and equality among America’s workforce. The largest unions in modern times are Teacher’s unions, that encompassed over one third of unions in 2009. (About OSHA Page) OSHA has received assistance from President Obama since his election in the form of increased budgeting, a trend followed by democratic presidents, to aid the administration in protecting the rights of workers in the increasing absence of unions. Riley, 6) The need for OSHA and other organizations, like the American Civil Liberties Union, has been challenged by conservatives in congress today, for their necessity in today’s social climate.
Over the past 40 years, America’s society and economy has grown into a technological age, as well as the means of manufacturing and construction, which OSHA most heavily regulates, These industries and their methodology have also moved with the times. Riley, 6) Work in America is currently trending toward the service industries, which have not been supportive of regulation historically, whether by unions or government, generally exercising a preference for laissez-faire, and a common sense safety philosophy. (OSHA: Expanding Role In The Workplace) In defense of OSHA,“Since 1970, workplace fatalities have been reduced by more than 65 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined by 67 percent. At the same time, U. S. employment has almost doubled.
Worker deaths in America are down — from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 13 a day in 2011 Worker injuries and illnesses are down — from 10. 9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to fewer than 4 per 100 in 2010. ” (About OSHA page) The administration is at the least partially responsible for these shown improvements for the average American worker, however, it is not feasibly the sole cause. Technology across multiple work fields and “greener, more environmentally conscious” companies are among the reasons that workers no longer have to fear the work related death and illnesses that were common ccurrences before OSHA was created in 1971. It is a challenge to note which of the factors mentioned above are the most influential, and the definite reason may not be revealed in the research concerning this project. What is undeniable about these statistics is their validity, and that OSHA is responsible for many saved lives, an estimated 430,000. (Riley, 4) In my opinion, OSHA is a decent administration which presents decent results. It is needed today, not as much as in previous years, but it is still necessary.
The largest concern that I possess about OSHA is its efficiency, it is a very large agency with multiple state branches, costing the American people over half a trillion dollars each year. Criticisms of its current budget size and the large citation fees it presents are within reason, so one change that I would make if in control of the program would be to reduce its size to place a lighter burden on the federal government and the national debt.
I would also reduce citation fees for small businesses by 35 percent, and reduce citation fees on large businesses by 25 percent. OSHA was created to solve a problem, the unnecessary deaths and injuries of productive citizens. It has met the challenges of changing presidential administrations and policies well, and continues to meet its goals through its continued funding, recently increased by President Obama. OSHA is needed today to protect hard working Americans from the unpredictable, and the lives they save are well worth the cost.
“About OSHA Page.” About OSHA Page. Occupational Health and Safety Organization. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.
MacLaury, Judson. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration: A History of Its First Thirteen Years: 1971-1984. Print.
“OSHA: Expanding Role in the Workplace.” Facilitiesnet. Apr. 2011. Web. 14 Mar. 2013.
“OSHA Workers Information Page.” Osha.gov. Occupational Health and Safety Organization. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.
Riley, Kevin, and Lauren D. Applebaum. “OSHA at 40: Looking Back, Looking Ahead.”UCLA Research and Policy Brief (2011). Print.