50th Anniversary of OSH Act Marks Monumental Industry Milestone

Feb. 20, 2020
A half century of safety commemorated with year-long celebration

In 2009, the first wave of baby boomers (born between 1944 and 1964) started turning 65, prompting the beginning of a retirement exodus that may very well go unmatched in history. It’s no secret that, as this generation continues to retire by the millions, the labor shortage hitting our industry (as well as the other skilled trades) will inevitably continue. According to Forbes, approximately 280,000 baby boomers will retire every month through 2030 — when most of the nearly 75 million people who make up this group will have left the workforce. Speaking of old-timers, here’s a fun fact: A good portion of EC&M readers, many of whom are baby boomers, are what most would consider “industry veterans,” working in the industry for 20 years or more. Take it from someone who turned 50 a few months ago — it’s unbelievable just how quickly a half century can fly by.  

What else was happening 50 years ago this year? President Richard M. Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act on Dec. 29, 1970, the landmark worker safety and health law that led to the creation of OSHA the following spring. Following the establishment of this Act, workplace fatalities were reduced approximately 65%. As we all know, this milestone made employers responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s workforce by setting and enforcing standards as well as providing training, education, and assistance.

“America’s workplaces are safer and healthier thanks to the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the thousands of individuals at the Labor Department who have implemented the Act over the last 50 years,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia in a recent press release announcing the year-long celebration. “The OSH Act is a cornerstone of worker protection in our country, and thanks to OSHA’s work, countless American workers have gotten home safely to their families each day.”

The U.S. Department of Labor is commemorating the law that led to the creation of OSHA with a “Protecting the American Workforce” campaign as well as a new web page (https://www.osha.gov/osha50/). This site highlights transformative workplace improvements over the past half of a century — from OSHA’s first standards and whistle-blower protections to assistance programs for small businesses to the creation of training centers and education grants that help everyone understand and comply with the law. Visit www.osha.gov/osha50 to learn more about past achievements, current efforts, and future initiatives to protect the American workforce.

“The creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration made real, demonstrable improvement in worker safety in the United States,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor of Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “OSHA looks to continue to reduce occupational hazards and improve worker health.”

When it comes to reducing hazards in the workplace, the theme of this month’s issue is suitably focused on OSHA compliance. Don’t miss the cover story, starting on page 44, which highlights “OSHA’s Top 10 Violations of 2019.” Although this annual list, which we bring back year after year based on popular demand from our reader base, typically features the same categories (last year eight of the 10 categories held the same position as the previous year), it’s encouraging to note that the number of citations across the board decreased in 2019. That’s one safety statistic we like to see! Take a look at which categories warranted the most frequent citations last year, and join OSHA in the quest to protect the American workforce today and every day.

About the Author

Ellen Parson | Editor-in-Chief - EC&M

Ellen Parson is the Editor-in-Chief for EC&M. She has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She's been a business-to-business writer and editor for more than 25 years, most of which have been covering the construction and electrical industries. Contact her at [email protected].

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