President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law on December 29, 1970. The act created the three agencies that administer it. They include the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The act authorized the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to regulate private employers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and territories. The Act establishing it includes a general duty clause (29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)) requiring an employer to comply with the Act and regulations derived from it, and to provide employees with “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
OSHA develops safety standards in the Code of Federal Regulation and enforces those safety standards through compliance inspections conducted by Compliance Officers; enforcement resources are focused on high-hazard industries. Worksites may apply to enter OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP); a successful application leads to an on-site inspection; if this is passed the site gains VPP status and OSHA no longer inspects it annually nor (normally) visit it unless there is a fatal accident or an employee complaint until VPP revalidation (after 3–5 years)
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), created under the same act, works closely with OSHA and provides the research behind many of OSHA’s regulations and standards.