Capitol Hill

OSHA's 35th anniversary

This year is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) 35th year of existence. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the agency opened in 1971, occupational deaths have decreased 62 percent and injuries have declined 42 percent.

In fiscal year 2005, OSHA had roughly 2,220 employees, including 1,100 inspectors. The agency's appropriation from Congress for that year was $468.1 million. OSHA's budget increased to $472.4 million in fiscal year 2006, and the Bush administration has requested $483.7 million for fiscal year 2007. However, these figures only tell part of the spending story.

Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 encourages states to develop and operate their own job-safety and health programs. Federal OSHA approves and monitors state plans, and 26 states operate OSHA-approved state plans instead of federal OSHA enforcement.

But the biggest component of total domestic spending for workplace safety is spent by companies in the private sector. Such safety programs often have developed "organically" within industries and led to dramatic reductions of workplace injuries and fatalities since data started being collected nationally before World War II.