Occupational Safety and Health Act
The concerns that had prompted passage of this landmark law were hardly unfamiliar or new ("Act of Congress: Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970"). Accidents in America’s factories and mines had ruined thousand of worker’s lives. Federal statistics compiled since 1911 had also documented a growing epidemic of work-related illness and diseases. The first federal statute passed by Congress that required safety equipment in the workplace was the Safety Appliance Act which was applied only to railroad equipment. In 1910, the Congress established the federal Bureau of Mines to conduct research into the mine safety in response to a series of highly-publicized and deadly mine explosions and collapses. The broadest early federal reform measures – legislation establishing the Department of Labor in 1913 and banning exploitive child labor in 1938 – intentionally left most regulatory power over industrial working conditions with the states. The Esch Act of 1912 effectively outlawed the production of white phosphorus matches, and the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act banned federal contract work done under hazardous conditions. These laws, as well as the growing number of labor unions and public anger toward poor workplace safety, led to the significant reductions in worker accidents for a time.
State regulations of workplace began as part of the Progressive response to the industrial revolution during the 19th century. Early in the twentieth century, the increasing labor movement lobbied successfully for further regulation. Eventually, the federal government became involved in workplace safety during the Franklin’s Roosevelt presidency. (US History Encyclopedia: Occupational Safety and Health Act).
Industrial production increased significantly in the United States during World War II, and industrial accidents soared. Winning the war took precedence over safety, and most labor unions were more concerned with maintaining wages in the face of severe inflation than with workplace health and safety. After the war ended, however, workplace accident rates remained high and began to rise. In the two years preceding OSHA’s enactment, 14,000 workers died each year from workplace hazards, and another 2 million were disabled or harmed. Additionally, the "chemical revolution" introduced a vast array of new chemical compounds to the manufacturing environment. The health effects of these chemicals were poorly understood, and workers received few protections against prolonged or high levels of exposure. While a few states, such as California and New York, had enacted workplace safety as well as workplace health legislation, most states had not changed their workplace protection laws since the turn of the century.
Workplace Conditions Before the Passage of the OSHA
In the mid – 1960’s, growing awareness of the environmental impact of many chemicals, and the changes in America industry, exposed the ineffectiveness of existing state and federal laws. In 1965, the Public Health Service published an influential report that outlined some of the recently discovered technological dangers, including chemicals linked to cancer. The report called for a major national occupational health effort, criticizing existing federal law as too limited and state programs as uncoordinated and insufficient. The AFL-CIO and other labor organizations urged President Lyndon Johnson to support the report’s recommendations.
The Passage of