596). This legislation separated regulation from research by also creating a research agency, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), within the Department of Health and Human Services. The two agencies are formally linked by the statutory authority encouraging NIOSH to make recommendations to OSHA on the basis of occupational research. OSHA, in turn, contributes both formally and informally to the development of NIOSH research priorities.

OSHA's statutory mission is to "assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions" (Section 2(b)). This mission is carried out by setting mandatory standards, enforcing standards, and offering compliance assistance, 8 training, and education. Surveillance activities, which are also discussed below, are carried out by a sister agency within the Department of Labor. OSHA activities are conducted in 25 states and the District of Columbia, whereas the other 25 states—which contain about 40 percent of the labor force—operate their own occupational safety and health programs that are approved by OSHA. The Occupational Safety and Health Act permits states to implement their own programs as long as they are "at least as effective" as OSHA "in providing safe and healthful employment" (section 18 (c)(2)).

When OSHA was formed, it adopted existing federal safety standards, most of which were promulgated under the Walsh-Healy Act of 1936, and it adopted 20 consensus standards of the American National Standards Institute. Since then, OSHA has issued about five dozen safety standards and two dozen health standards, with many more in various stages of development (OTA, 1985).

OSHA holds the dubious distinction of being one of the most criticized regulatory agencies in the federal government (OTA, 1985). Being a focal point for criticism is a natural outgrowth of a mission that often divides employees and employers in terms of their values, perceptions of risk, and economic interests, amidst a historical backdrop of rancor and distrust. OSHA's rule making is subject to intense scrutiny and frequent court challenges. It is not uncommon for a rule to require more than five years from inception to final rule making, if it even proceeds to the final stage.

As it strives to reduce the burden of workplace fatalities and injury, OSHA has been compelled to adapt to strong historical forces—political, technological, and demographic in origin. Among these are a tide of antiregulatory sentiment ushered in during the 1980s, the transformation of U.S. industries from manufacturing to service orientation, entry into a global economy, expansion in the number of U.S. workers, and technological advances that have brought unanticipated health and safety concerns to the workplace. Another major impetus for change at OSHA is the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993. This

8

Provided at no cost to employers that request help in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful workplace.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement