On December 29, 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law, calling it “probably one of the most important pieces of legislation” ever passed by Congress. In a nutshell, the Act says workplaces must be “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
These hazards were far from negligible. At the time, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job every year. The Act created an administration agency under the U.S. Department of Labor—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA was tasked with setting and enforcing protective workplace safety and health standards, as well as providing information, training, outreach, and assistance to employers and workers.