and Health Act of 1970). The Act imposes upon covered employers a “general duty” to provide a safe workplace to employees and created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to adopt and enforce rules. For clarity and ease of enforcement, the Act also authorized OSHA to create specific standards for particular industries or risks. Several other agencies were created to conduct research, try enforcement cases, or otherwise contribute to the workplace safety system. Individuals and organizations in the private sector also play a considerable role in shaping OSHA’s standards and priorities.

Political Bodies Responsible for Administering OSHA

The administration of the Act is comprised of four basic functions: research on workplace risks and risk reduction; the development of specific safety standards (called rulemaking); enforcement of the rules through education and technical assistance, as well as investigation and punishment of violations; and adjudication and judicial review of standards and enforcement measures. In all these functions, OSHA and other federal agencies must comply with both the substantive and procedural requirements of the Act and other related federal rules, which prescribe what rules agencies like OSHA may make and how it must go about making them.


Several entities conduct research or provide information to OSHA (Figure E-1). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the principal government agency charged with conducting research regarding workplace hazards. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), within the Department for Health and Human Services. Unlike OSHA, NIOSH has no regulatory or enforce-

FIGURE E-1. OSHA processes and personae.

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