Antioch Law Journal


The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), passed in 1970, is intended to provide "every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions."' The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces the Act; 2 the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) does research on workplace hazards and recommends practices and standards for industry. 3 By contrast with the state workers compensation schemes, the underlying purpose of the OSH Act is to prevent occupationally related injuries, disease and death, rather than to compensate the worker once the harm has occurred. The OSH Act, if used effectively, can help force industry to clean up the workplace and to do the research and produce the technology necessary for safe and healthful working conditions. Neighborhood legal services programs and community law offices can play an extremely important role, one that has been largely ignored thus far, in ensuring adequate enforcement of the OSH Act. Moreover, it is particularly important at this time that OSHA compliance activities are closely scrutinized and that their actions are carefully monitored, because of the federal government's shift away from aggressive enforcement of the OSH Act and in the direction of a laissez-faire approach toward regulation of the workplace. This paper is intended to stimulate interest in the problems of occupational safety and health by presenting several areas that lend themselves to advocacy work by neighborhood legal services offices. 4