ment authority. It does have the authority to enter workplaces and question employees as part of its research activities. NIOSH may examine medical records or conduct medical examinations upon consenting employees, and may involve employees in data collection with the employees’ consent. NIOSH and OSHA have entered into cooperative agreements under which NIOSH advises OSHA on the development of new standards, and assists in ensuring employer compliance by offering training and education (Rothstein, 1998).

The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) advises the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the feasibility of and alternatives to new standards. Its 12 members include representatives of labor, management, the public, and occupational safety professionals. The Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (FACOSH) advises the Secretary of Labor on occupational safety and health among federal agencies. The Secretary may create additional advisory committees to aid OSHA in the promulgation of new standards. These committees may be permanent committees to advise the Secretary on safety and health in a single industry or temporary committees created to advise the Secretary on issuing a single standard (Rothstein, 1998).


The Act creates a duty for each covered employer to provide “to each of his employees employment and places of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees” (Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970). This is known as the general-duty clause of the Act. The Act authorizes OSHA to interpret and enforce this general rule and also to issue more specific standards for particular industries or hazards. The decision to issue a specific standard initiates a process known in administrative law as rulemaking. Rulemaking is subject to substantive and procedural rules that are discussed in detail later in this appendix.

OSHA is part of the U.S. Department of Labor and is headed by the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. Staff in Washington, D.C., make policy and develop new standards in accordance with the research results and advice of NIOSH, the various advisory boards, and the many other public and private individuals and organizations with an interest in worker health and safety. Public participation is required by the statute and formalized in U.S. Department of Labor regulations providing for “written petitions” submitted to the Secretary by “any interested person” suggesting a new standard. These petitions must include the rule proposed, a statement of reasons for the new standard, and a statement of its intended effect (29 C.F.R. 1911.3).

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