Occupational Safety and Health Administration
On December 29, 1970 Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The purpose of this act as quoted from the act itself is: “To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes.” This act requires employers to provide workplaces that are free from serious recognized hazards and to comply with occupational safety and health standards. The mission of OSHA is to save lives, prevent injuries, and protect the health of America’s workers. Since 1970 OSHA has grown to over 1,130 inspectors in states under federal OSHA jurisdiction. Personnel also includes investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standards writers and other support personnel spread over more than 200 offices throughout the country (OSHA FAQ) .
Since 1970 workplace fatalities have been reduced by half. Even with this decline fourteen Americans are killed on the job every single day of the year. In addition, tens of thousands die every year from workplace disease and over 4.6 million workers are seriously injured on the job (OSHA FAQ). The Department of Labor which conducts the OSHA inspections wants workers to feel safe on the job. Workers have rights that include the right to request an inspection, have a representative present at the inspection, have dangerous substances identified, be informed about exposure to hazards, and have employer violations posted at the worksite (OSH Act).
In section 5 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 there is a set of duties that employers and employees are supposed to follow in order to be best assisted by OSHA. This General Duty Clause states: “(a) Each employer – (1) shall furnish to each of his employees 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; (2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act. (b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.” In section 8 of the OSH Act regarding Inspections and Investigations it states: “(a) In order to carry out the purposes of this Act, the Secretary, upon appropriate credentials to the owner, operator or agent in charge is authorized- (1) to enter without delay and at reasonable times any factory, plant establishment, construction site or other area, workplace or environment where work is performed by an employee of an employer; and (2) to inspect and investigate during regular working hours and at other reasonable times, and within reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner, any such place of employment and all pertinent conditions, structures, machines, apparatus, devices, equipment, and materials therein, and to question privately any such employer, owner operator, agent or employee.” In Marshall v. Barlow's Inc., 436 U.S. 307 (1978), this case involved the constitutionality of a provision in the Occupational Safety and Health Act that permitted inspectors to enter premises without a warrant to inspect for safety hazards and violation of OSHA regulations. The Court held that this provision violated the Fourth Amendment. In The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, commentary is given on this case. One issue in the case was whether a warrant was required. The Court had previously held that no warrant was required to inspect either the premises of a liquor licensee or a licensed gun dealer's storeroom....