What is OSHA?

Under federal law, all employees are entitled to a safe workplace. OHSA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, seeks to uphold that promise. Nearly every employee in the nation comes under OSHA’s jurisdiction, though some exceptions exist: mining workers (who have their own Act), some transportation workers, many public employees, and the self-employed. Employers subject to the OSH Act have a general duty to provide work and a workplace free from serious hazards, and employees have the right to seek assistance in rectifying dangerous workplaces without fear of retaliation.


The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created OSHA. The Act sought to assure safe and healthful working conditions for all workers in the United States. During World War II, United States industrial production increased dramatically; labor unions were more concerned with maintaining wages (inflation was severe) than with upholding workplace healthy and safety. The war ended, but workplace accident rates remained high, eventually beginning to rise. In the two years directly before OSHA’s enactment, more than 28,000 workers died on the job and two million were disabled or harmed in the workplace.


Several bills were introduced in order to combat workplace dangers—Lyndon B. Johnson introduced a comprehensive occupational health and safety bill to Congress in 1968, and Richard Nixon introduced two bills in 1969. Both congressional Democrats and Republicans introduced bills in 1970, and, in November, both chambers acted—The House passed the Republican compromise bill, while the Senate passed the Democratic bill.


The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is found in the United States Code at title 29, chapter 15. If you would like more information about OSHA, we recommend reading All About OSHA, the U.S. Department of Labor’s publication detailing the sections of this Act. For more information about the Department of Labor’s workplace-related agencies, see their Workplace Safety and Health Index.


Watch a Video Introduction by National Safety Compliance