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A look at OSHA's efforts over the past 40 years

In Colorado, some of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigations have shown that there are certain jobs that pose serious safety concerns: trenching, oil and gas operations, and grain bin manufacturing. Just last year, there were 19 reported fatal workplace accidents in Colorado.

When an employer fails to provide a safe workplace, employees are more at risk of being injured at work. OSHA is a federal agency that works to decrease the number of workplace accidents by regulating employers and working conditions. But has OSHA been effective?

Before 1970, job hazards that led to a workplace injury, illness or death were unchecked and unregulated by the U.S. government. When OSHA was established, the first nationwide agency devoted to employee safety and protection was formed.

When OSHA started 40 years ago, 38 Americans were dying at work on a daily basis. Even higher fatality numbers were recorded in the earlier part of the 20th century. Individual workers, unions and advocates did press for more safety in the workplace and could take employers to court, but no blanket on-the-job government protection was yet available.

In the years since OSHA was created, the number of employees nationwide has nearly doubled, but on-the-job fatalities have dropped. Job-related illnesses and injuries have also been reduced through OSHA's efforts.

Despite success, OSHA remains vigilant in its efforts to educate employers and workers as a way to keep future tragedies out of working environments. Being injured on-the-job can lead to a number of complications for the employee who must recovery from the injury but cannot work during that time. For injured workers, workers' compensation benefits can help with the financial challenges that may arise after a work-related accident.

Source: The Coloradoan online, "No job is good unless it's safe," Herb Gibson, 05 May 2011

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