OSHA 35-Year Milestones

OSHA's mission is to send every worker home whole and healthy every day. Since the agency was established in 1971, workplace fatalities have been cut by 62 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined 40 percent. At the same time, U.S. employment has nearly doubled from 56 million workers at 3.5 million worksites to 115 million workers at nearly 7 million sites. The following milestones mark the agency's progress over the past 35 years in improving working environments for America's workforce.

December 29, 1970
President Richard M. Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

May 29, 1971
First standards adopted to provide baseline for safety and health protection in American workplaces.

January 17, 1972
OSHA Training Institute established to instruct OSHA inspectors and the public.

November-December, 1972
First states approved (South Carolina, Montana, Oregon) to run their own OSHA programs.

May 20, 1975
Free consultation program created - more than 500,000 businesses participated in past 30 years.

June 23, 1978
Cotton dust standard promulgated to protect 600,000 workers from byssinosis; cases of "brown lung" have declined to 0.1 cases per 10,000 workers.

January 20, 1978
Supreme Court decision setting staffing benchmarks for state plans to be "at least as effective" as federal OSHA.

April 12, 1978
New Directions Grants program (now known as the Susan Harwood Training Grants program) to foster development of occupational safety and health training and education for employers and workers. ( More than 1.3 million trained since 1978.)

November 14, 1978
Lead standard published to reduce permissible exposures by three-quarters to protect 835,000 workers from damage to nervous, urinary and reproductive systems. (Construction standard adopted in 1995.)

February 26, 1980
Supreme Court decision on Whirlpool affirming workers' rights to engage in safety and health-related activities.

May 23, 1980
Medical and exposure records standard finalized to permit worker and OSHA access to employer-maintained medical and toxic exposure records.

July 2, 1980
Supreme Court decision vacates OSHA's benzene standard, establishing the principle that OSHA standards must address and reduce "significant risks" to workers.

September 12, 1980
Fire protection standard updated and rules established for fire brigades responsible for putting out nearly 95 percent of worksite fires.

January 16, 1981
Electrical standards updated to simplify compliance and adopt a performance approach.

July 2, 1982
Voluntary Protection Programs created to recognize worksites with outstanding safety and health programs (more than 1,400 sites currently participating).

November 25, 1983
Hazard communication standard promulgated to provide information and training and labeling of toxic materials for manufacturing employers and employees (Other industries added August 24, 1987).

November-December, 1984
First "final approvals" granted to state plans (Virgin Islands, Hawaii and Alaska) giving them authority to operate with minimal oversight from OSHA.

April 1, 1986
First instance-by-instance penalties proposed against Union Carbide's plant in Institute, West Virginia, for egregious violations involving respiratory protection and injury and illness recordkeeping.

December 31, 1987
Grain handling facilities standard adopted to protect 155,000 workers at nearly 24,000 grain elevators from the risk of fire and explosion from highly combustible grain dust.

January 26, 1989
"Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines," voluntary guidelines for effective safety and health programs based on VPP experience, published.

March 6, 1989
Hazardous waste operations and emergency response standard promulgated to protect 1.75 million public and private sector workers exposed to toxic wastes from spills or at hazardous waste sites.

September 1, 1989
Lockout/tagout of hazardous energy sources standard issued to protect 39 million workers from unexpected energization or start up of machines or equipment and prevent 120 deaths and 50,000 injuries each year.

December 6, 1991
Occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens standard published to prevent more than 9,000 infections and 200 deaths per year, protecting 5.6 million workers against AIDS, hepatitis B and other diseases.

October 1, 1992
Education Centers created to make OSHA training courses more widely available to employers, workers and the public. Twenty centers train more than 300,000 students each year - over 370,000 students were trained in FY 2005 alone.

February 24, 1992
Process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals standard adopted to reduce fire and explosion risks for 3 million workers at 25,000 workplaces, preventing more than 250 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries each year.

January 14, 1993
Permit-required confined spaces standard promulgated to prevent more than 50 deaths and more than 5,000 serious injuries annually for 1.6 million workers who enter confined spaces at 240,000 workplaces each year.

February1, 1993
Maine 200 program created to promote development of safety and health programs at companies with high numbers of injuries and illnesses.

June 27, 1994
First expert advisor software - GoCad - issued to assist employers in complying with OSHA's cadmium standard.

August 9, 1994
Fall protection in construction standard revised to save 79 lives and prevent 56,400 injuries each year.

August 10, 1994
Asbestos standard updated to cut permissible exposures in half for nearly 4 million workers, preventing 42 cancer deaths annually.

September 4, 1995
Formal launch of OSHA's expanded webpage to provide OSHA standards and compliance assistance via the Internet.

June 6, 1996
Phone-fax complaint handling policy adopted to speed resolution of complaints of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions.

August 30, 1996
Scaffold standard published to protect 2.3 million construction workers and prevent 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries annually.

November 9, 1998
OSHA Strategic Partnership Program launched to improve workplace safety and health through national and local cooperative, voluntary agreements.

April 19, 1999
Site-Specific Targeting Program established to focus OSHA resources where most needed -
on individual worksites with the highest injury and illness rates.

November 14, 2000
Ergonomics program standard promulgated to prevent 460,000 musculoskeletal disorders among more than 102 million workers at 6.1 million general industry worksites.

January 10, 2001
Jersey public employee plan receives final approval.

January 17, 2001
Steel erection standard, developed in concert with industry and union groups, preventing 30 fatalities and 1,142 injuries annually and saving employers nearly $40 million a year, issued. It’s the first OSHA safety standard to be developed under the negotiated rulemaking process.

January 18, 2001
Recordkeeping rule revised to improve the system that employers use to track and record workplace injuries and illnesses.

January 18, 2001
As mandated by the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, OSHA revised its bloodborne pathogens standard to clarify the need for employers to select safer needle devices.

March 7-8, 2001
Under the auspices of the Congressional Review Act the Senate votes 56-44 to repeal ergonomics rule. The House follows suit the next day and votes 223-206 to repeal the rule. It is the first time that Congress exercises its authority under the Act to repeal a federal standard.

March 20, 2001
President signs S.J. Resolution 6, repealing the ergonomics rule.

April 27, 2001
Occupational Safety and Health Administration celebrates its 30th anniversary; over the past three decades job-related fatalities are cut in half, injuries and illnesses declined by 40 percent.

September 11, 2001
OSHA responds to terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, DC. More than 1,000 OSHA employees from New York and around the country volunteer to help protect workers involved in the cleanup and recovery efforts at both sites.

March 1, 2002
Agency launches bi-weekly electronic newsletter QuickTakes.

April 4, 2002
Secretary Chao unveils a comprehensive plan designed to reduce ergonomic injuries through a combination of industry-specific guidelines, strong enforcement, outreach and assistance, and further research.

May 30, 2002
The recovery phase and cleanup at the World Trade Center disaster site comes to an end. For more than eight months, three million work hours were logged on a worksite like no other, yet only 35 workers missed workdays due to injury and no more lives were lost to work.

March 11, 2003
OSHA announces an enhanced enforcement policy to focus on those employers who have received "high gravity" citations.

March 13, 2003
Ergonomics Guidelines issued for the Nursing Home Industry.

July 1, 2003
Final rule establishes criteria for recording work-related hearing loss.

October 24, 2003
OSHA welcomes 1000th site to achieve "Star" status in Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

February 4, 2004
OSHA unveils its National Emergency Management Plan, a new directive that clarifies the agency's policies during responses to national emergencies.

May 28, 2004
Ergonomics Guidelines published for Retail Grocery Stores.

August 24, 2004
Final rule establishes procedures for handling whistleblower complaints under the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, also known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

September 2, 2004
Ergonomic guidelines announced for the poultry processing industry.

November 24, 2004
Federal agencies required to adopt private sector worker safety and health recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

May 12, 2005
Oregon becomes the 17th state to receive final approval to operate their own job safety and health program.

August 31, 2005
OSHA responds to Hurricane Katrina and offers the full resources of the agency to help protect the safety and health of workers responding to the disaster along the Gulf Coast.

September 22, 2005
OSHA reaches settlement agreement with BP Products North America Inc. The company pays more than $21 million in fines following a fatal explosion at its Texas City, TX, plant. It is the largest penalty ever issued by OSHA.

February 27, 2006
OSHA publishes final rule on hexavalent chromium, lowering the permissible exposure limit (PEL) from 52 to 5 micrograms per cubic centimeters based on an 8-hour workday.

March 15, 2006
Senate Confirms President's Nominee to Lead Occupational Safety and Health Administration

November 14, 2006
U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA Unveils New Guidance for Protecting Employees Against Avian Flu

February 6, 2007
U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA Unveils New Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for Influenza Pandemic