In December 1970 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created by an act of congress under the administration of President Richard M. Nixon. The mandate of OSHA was, and is, to prevent work-related injuries, sickness, or fatalities by creating and enforcing standards for workplace health and safety. This agency is run within the Department of Labor and headed by one of the Deputy Assistants to the Secretary of Labor.
Simultaneous with the creating of OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was also created. The mission of NIOSH is to be the research arm of OSHA which focuses on occupational safety and health, but is not a part of the Department of Labor.
The regulations enacted by OSHA cover the majority of private sector workplaces.
Under the administration of Jimmy Carter a toxicologist from the University of Cincinnati, Eula Bingham, led OSHA to concentrate more on work place health hazards such as toxic chemicals. Before this OSHA’s main focus was on equipment safety, including training, communication and documentation.
Under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush there were efforts to weaken the ability of OSHA to enforce and enact rules regulating workplace safety.
President Clinton began to refocus the approach of OSHA, emphasizing more on “stakeholder” satisfaction through compliance assistance. Under the Clinton administration OSHA inspections significantly went down in number.
In 1994 the republican party took over control of the congress and began to make efforts to improve the scientific validity of the standards which OSHA had been issuing rules. Several of the bills sponsored by Republican congressman were stopped by the Democratic minority and more moderate republicans. Other legislation did pass, however, including the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 and the Congressional Review Act.