On December 29, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 into law. Since OSHA’s establishment, our country has made significant strides in reducing work-related deaths and injuries. It is estimated that in 1970 around 14,000 workers were killed on the job. That number fell to approximately 4,642 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that time, the workforce has nearly doubled and now includes over 130 million workers across 7.2 million workplaces.
Despite all this, here at OSHA, we know that our job will not be complete until every worker returns home safely at the end of each day. No worker should lose their life for their livelihood.
Too many workers are still exposed on the job to common but dangerous materials, like crystalline silica and hazardous chemicals. So, we have placed a renewed focused on developing innovative approaches and stronger standards to help employers protect the millions of employees. In April of this year, we hosted three weeks of hearings on our proposed silica rule making, and just recently we launched a national dialogue to identify ways to fix our outdated chemical permissible exposure limits or PELS. Both the silica rule and the updated PELS have the potential to make a huge impact on worker health.
The New Year will also bring updated reporting requirements for employers. Starting on Jan. 1, 2015, all employers under federal OSHA jurisdiction are required to report not only all work-related fatalities within eight hours, but also in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours. Previously, employers were only expected to report after a fatality or when three or more workers were hospitalized in the same incident. Our updated reporting requirements have a life-saving purpose: they will enable employers and workers to prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazard.
But it wasn’t just rulemaking here at OSHA; we also had huge successes in outreach and enforcement. If there was a category in the Guinness Book of World Records for largest national worker safety event, we’re pretty sure that our National Safety Stand-Down to prevent fatal falls would take the prize! From June 2-6, more than one million workers in the construction industry across the country participated in the Stand-Down, and we’re still receiving positive feedback from employers and their employees alike.
Throughout 2014, Federal OSHA protected workers by conducting 36,163 safety and health inspections, while our free on-site consultation program conducted more than 26,700 on-site visits to small and medium-sized business worksites covering more than 1.3 million workers nationwide. Federal OSHA also awarded approximately $35.7 million in damages to whistleblower complainants and continued using outreach and enforcement to help assure that temporary workers are protected on the job.
While our work is certainly never done, we think OSHA looks pretty good for 44, and we look forward to protecting workers in this New Year and for another 44 plus.