At the end of 1970, Congress in an effort to combat the high instances of workplace injury, sickness and death enacted legislation called the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to assure safe and healthy working conditions for all employees. Congress wrote this act as a vehicle for enforcement of the Occupational Health Safety standards outlined in the Act. The Act also had provisions providing for information, research, training and education. Congress created a 2 new Federal Agencies, one, within the U.S. Department of Labor called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce and oversee provisions contained in the Act and the other the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the CDC, within the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the research, education and informational portions of the Act. President Nixon signed it into law and became Law April 1, 1971.
In our ever changing world and workplaces OSHA's focus on traditional work sites such as factories, warehouses and construction sites has expanded. From the World trade Center's bombings toxic air, to anthrax scares at the USPS, numerous hurricanes and natural disasters have prompted OSHA to add disaster/ emergency preparedness to its Occupational Health Safety role in the workplace.
Between 2003 and 2008 OSHA's diligence with its enforcement, educational programs and guidance has reduced overall workplace incidences from 5 per 100 full time workers in 2003 to 3.9 incidences per 100 workers in 2009.
Employers are more aware now more than ever of OSHA's position on enforcing standards and continue to focus on compliance. Between 2001 and 2008, OSHA levied or suggested almost a billion dollars in penalties and made more than 60 recommendations for criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice (DOJ). New technologies like nanotechnologies present new challenges to OSHA and NOISH as workplace toxicity and possible hazards to the employee's involved in the development and manufacture of these new never been seen before products are developed and introduced. These new technologies present a different level of research and enforcement and are a far cry from hardhats and non-slip shoe's.
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