Written by Steve Hudgik
One of the surprising facts about OSHA is that before OSHA existed most American workers did not have access to the basic legal right to a safe workplace. Employers often adopted a take-it or leave-it attitude to workplace safety. And many workers were given a Hobson's choice: work in dangerous conditions, or find another job. What many employers failed to understand was the enormous cost of NOT promoting a safe environment. Occupational injuries and illnesses cost employers more than $53 billion a year - more than $1 billion a week in - workers' compensation costs alone. Treating workers shabbily and exposing them to danger is an expensive choice.
Thankfully, today's facts about OSHA are much brighter than they once were. And the industrial workplace has had a major overhaul.
In 1970 when President Nixon signed the OSH Act, the American workplace was considerably more dangerous than it is today. The number of workers dying every year from workplace accidents was estimated at 14,000. And the real numbers were probably higher still as workplace fatalities were not always carefully tracked in the 70s and 80s.
In the last three decades more and more facts about OSHA have emerged: OSHA has steadily become more collaborative as it reaches out to employers and employees to improve safety and health. In 1971, the National Safety Council estimated 38 workers died on the job every day of the year. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts that number at 12 per day. And today's workforce is nearly twice the size of 1971's workforce!
OSHA and its state partners have roughly 2,400 inspectors and about 550 state consultants, plus complaint discrimination investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standard writers and other technical and support personnel spread over more than 130 offices throughout the country. These facts about OSHA demonstrate OSHA's collaborative willingness. Today's workers now have access to many opportunities for keeping workers safe and healthy: standards, training, outreach, education, partnerships and continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.
Standards are the heart and soul of OSHA. It is through detailed, exacting standards that our workers are kept safe. One of the first standards created was for brown lung disease. As many as 150,000 employed and retired cotton-mill workers may suffer from some form of the ailment. In the cotton-mill country of the South, the slogan was "Blue jeans for you, brown lung for us." OSHA is committed to protecting workers from toxic chemicals and deadly safety hazards at work, ensuring that vulnerable workers in high-risk jobs have access to critical information and education about job hazards, and providing employers with vigorous compliance assistance to promote the best practice that can save lives.
One of the facts about OSHA that you might not know is that OSHA's inspectors will come to your site, perform an audit and won't cite you for its findings. Yes, audited businesses will have to correct those problems within a certain abatement period, but with the audit, employers will know exactly what needs to be done for compliance. If desired, OSHA will also pair a smaller company with a larger company to provide mentorship. The OSHA legacy is a proud legacy. Many lives have been spared through OSHA's relentless commitment to workplace safety. To learn more facts about OSHA, visit the OSHA site at www.osha.gov.