OSHA's 40 year history
Created by usdol-osha on Feb 2, 2011
Last updated: 03/17/11 at 10:32 PM
Tags: OSHA Safety health
OSHA issues a historic new rule, which replaces a 40-year-old standard, designed to prevent the leading causes of fatalities among crane and derrick operators. The rule affects more than 250,000 worksites, which employ about 4.8 million workers, and is expected to prevent 22 fatalities and 175 non-fatal injuries each year.
OSHA proposes an initiative to require employers to implement a systematic program to help them find the safety and health hazards in their workplace and fix them. This initiative follows the lead of 15 states, such as California and Minnesota, that have already implemented such programs.
OSHA issues a Walking/Working Surface Safety proposal to improve worker protection from falls, the leading cause of work-related injuries and death. Reducing falls in the workplace is expected to prevent about 20 fatalities and 3,500 serious injuries annually.
BP Oil’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig experiences a catastrophic explosion, killing 11 workers, and resulting in an unprecedented oil spill. OSHA works as part of the coordinated federal response, making over 4,200 site visits to ensure that BP and its contractors are protecting workers involved in the cleanup of health and safety hazards. To ensure that workers are not inhaling dangerous levels of hazardous chemicals, OSHA takes over 7,000 independent air samples at clean-up areas both on- and off-shore, and reviews over 90,000 air samples taken by other federal agencies and BP.
OSHA holds a historic summit, bringing together over 1,000 participants with the goal of increasing Latino and other vulnerable workers’ knowledge of their OSHA rights and their ability to use their rights.
Dr. David Michaels, an epidemiologist and professor of Environmental and Occupational Health, becomes OSHA’s Assistant Secretary under President Barack Obama.
In the wake of several deadly industrial combustible dust explosions—including the February 7, 2008, explosion at the Imperial Sugar Refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, that killed 14 and injured 30 others—OSHA initiates rulemaking to comprehensively address the fire and explosion hazards of combustible dust.
OSHA proposes to increase the quality, accessibility and consistency of information provided to workers, employers and chemical users by adopting a standardized approach to hazard classification, labels and safety data sheets.
OSHA confirms through a rule that employers must pay for most types of required personal protective equipment, such as earplugs, respirators, and protective gloves.
Edwin Foulke is appointed by President George W. Bush to be Assistant Secretary for OSHA. Foulke, an attorney, had served as Chairman of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Under his tenure, OSHA issues the largest fine in the agency’s history.
OSHA issues a standard providing greater protection to more than 500,000 workers exposed to hexavalent chromium, whose health effects include lung cancer and dermatitis.
OSHA hurricane response workers, joined by staff from State Plans and On-site Consultation Programs, fan out across the Gulf States to help protect workers involved in cleanup and recovery operations.
An explosion and fire at the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, kills 15 workers and injures more than 160 others. In response, OSHA issues the largest fines in its history and initiates increased inspections in oil refineries across the country.
OSHA adopts a standard for increased protection for shipyard workers from fire hazards on vessels and at land-side facilities.
OSHA sends staff to Ground Zero in New York City and the Pentagon to monitor worker exposures to hazards during cleanup and recovery operations and to fit test and distribute respirators.
John Henshaw becomes the Assistant Secretary for OSHA under President George W. Bush. Henshaw is an industrial hygienist and had been president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association.
After passage of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, OSHA strengthens worker protections for bloodborne pathogens.
OSHA issues a standard protecting construction workers in steel erection, preventing 30 fatalities and 1,142 injuries annually.
Charles N. Jeffress becomes Assistant Secretary for OSHA under President Bill Clinton. Jeffress was the former North Carolina Deputy Labor Secretary in charge of that state’s OSHA program.
OSHA strengthens health and safety protections for workers at longshoring and marine terminal operations.
California adopts rules to protect workers from work-related musculoskeletal disorders, one of the most prevalent of all workplace injuries and illnesses.
OSHA issues a standard to protect workers from exposure to methylene chloride, a chemical widely used in a variety of industrial processes and industries, including paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing and metal cleaning and degreasing. Methylene chloride exposure increases the risk of cancer; has adverse effects on the heart, central nervous system and liver; and causes skin and eye irritation.
OSHA issues a standard requiring safety measures for workers on scaffolds to protect 2.3 million construction workers, preventing 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries annually.
OSHA issues a standard specifying safety requirements covering all logging operations, regardless of the end use of the forest products.
OSHA issues a stronger asbestos standard with lower permissible exposure limits, offering significantly increased protection to 4 million exposed workers, preventing 42 cancer deaths annually.
Image: © Earl Dotter
Falls are the leading cause of deaths for construction workers. OSHA strengthens protections requiring employers to provide fall protection, such as safety harnesses and lines or guardrails, saving 79 lives and preventing 56,400 injuries each year.
Joseph Dear becomes Assistant Secretary for OSHA under President Bill Clinton. Dear was the former Director of Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industry. During his tenure, OSHA issues a standard to protect workers from the toxic chemical 1,3-butadiene by reducing the permissible exposure limit from 1,000 parts per million (ppm) to 1 ppm. 1,3-butadiene is used in the production of synthetic rubber.
OSHA issues a standard requiring safe procedures and permits for entry into confined spaces, including underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, process vessels, and pipelines. The standard prevents more than 50 deaths and more than 5,000 serious injuries annually for the 1.6 million workers who enter confined spaces.
OSHA issues the Process Safety Management standard to reduce the risk of deadly fires and explosions for 3 million workers at 25,000 workplaces, preventing more than 250 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries each year.
OSHA protects workers from HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and hepatitis B with the Bloodborne Pathogens standard, providing protection to 5.6 million workers exposed to the hazards of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B. It results in the dramatic reduction of hepatitis B infection among healthcare workers.
A disastrous fire at Imperial Foods in Hamlet, North Carolina, kills 25 poultry workers. Many of these workers cannot escape the raging fire because the company had locked exit doors. The tragic fire led to Federal OSHA resuming concurrent jurisdiction in North Carolina (a state-run OSHA program) and resulted in a revamped North Carolina State Plan.
California State OSHA adopts the first comprehensive statewide Injury and Illness Prevention Program standard. Since then, fourteen additional states have adopted required injury and illness prevention programs.
Recognizing the unique dangers posed to workers in laboratories while handling hazardous chemicals, OSHA issues a standard protecting laboratory workers.
OSHA issues a stronger rule to protect construction workers from the hazards of working in trenches and excavations. The standard requires that trenches be shored up to prevent collapse and that ladders be provided for exit/escape. Since issuing the rule, trenching fatalities have declined by 40 percent.
Twenty-three workers are killed in a petrochemical plant explosion in Pasadena, Texas. The disaster leads OSHA to issue the Process Safety Management standard in 1992.
Jerry Scannell is appointed by President George H.W. Bush to become OSHA’s eighth Assistant Secretary. Scannell, a safety professional, had worked in OSHA from 1971-1979.
OSHA issues the Lockout/Tagout standard, establishing procedures to safeguard over 39 million employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities. The Lockout/Tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year.
The Exxon Valdez oil tanker spills 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. OSHA sends inspectors to monitor worker protection and required safety and health training.
OSHA issues a final rule to protect 1.75 million public and private sector workers exposed to toxic substances from spills or at hazardous waste sites.
OSHA issues voluntary guidelines for effective safety and health programs.
In the wake of Congressional hearings, OSHA begins an inspection and outreach effort at several large meatpacking plants. Meatpacking remains one of the nation’s most dangerous industries, and these plants have high rates of serious injuries and illnesses, especially cumulative trauma disorders. As a result, OSHA issues the Ergonomic Program Management Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants.
OSHA adopts regulations on safety testing and certification of certain workplace equipment and materials by nationally recognized testing laboratories (NRTLs).
Following a series of devastating grain elevator explosions, OSHA issues the grain handling standard to protect 155,000 workers in the grain industry from the risk of fire and explosion from highly combustible grain dust. The standard also protects workers from suffocation hazards when entering grain bins. Since the standard was issued, explosions have been reduced by over 40 percent, and the number of workers killed by explosions fell by 70 percent.
OSHA issues a revised standard to protect workers from benzene, a highly toxic chemical that causes leukemia.
Image: © Earl Dotter
OSHA issues a standard requiring employers of 11 or more field workers to provide toilets, potable drinking water, and handwashing facilities to hand laborers in the field.
This construction disaster in Bridgeport, Connecticut, kills 28 workers and leads to stronger regulation of the "lift slab" construction method, which is now rarely used.
OSHA issues a standard for ground-fault circuit interrupter protection on construction sites. Ground-fault circuit interrupters help to reduce the risk of electric shock and fires by correcting imbalances in the flow of electricity through a circuit. In 2005, OSHA estimated that this standard had saved between 650 and 1,100 lives.
John Pendergrass, an industrial hygienist by training, becomes Assistant Secretary for OSHA under President Ronald Reagan. Under his direction, the agency issues 11 safety standards and 4 health standards. He oversees a rulemaking to strengthen OSHA’s standards for hundreds of toxic substances (Permissible Exposure Limits, PELS), an effort that was overturned by the courts in 1992.
OSHA issues the first “egregious” penalties to Union Carbide of Institute, West Virginia. The seriousness of the violations prompts OSHA to create a new level of fines for egregious violations, and to propose record penalties of nearly $1.4 million against the company.
The catastrophic release of the toxic chemical methyl isocyanate at Union Carbide’s plant in Bhopal, India kills at least 3,800 immediately, results in thousands of additional deaths and affects half a million people. The disaster sparks worldwide concern, prompts OSHA to inspect all U.S. facilities manufacturing or processing this chemical, and leads OSHA to increase inspections of chemical plants. (1985-86).