Building a Better Future
Nixon’s OSHA legacy offers guidelines to a dangerous and deadly game
Anthony C. LoBaido
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
(Photograph by Anthony C. LoBaido)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – Those who work in the construction industry sometimes lament that “the OSHA rulebook was written in blood.” For people who put their lives on the line in the construction industry, no truer words were ever spoken.
It’s hard for many people to believe that the late President Richard Nixon created OSHA. (In addition to the DEA or “Drug Enforcement Agency,” as well as the Environmental Protection Agency or “EPA.” Just at Theodore Roosevelt traveled from his Summer White House in Oyster Bay, Long Island to visit Yosemite National Park — thus giving a shot in the arm to the idea of America’s National Parks Service —so too did Nixon take a great leap forward in regard to OSHA.
Nixon might be best remembered for traveling to Beijing to restore relations with mainland China. This was done as a counterbalance to America’s rivalry with the Soviet Union. This may rank as Nixon’s greatest international achievement. And surely OSHA ranks among Nixon’s greatest domestic achievements.
Richard Nixon signs the OSHA law, ushering in a new era for protecting America’s workers
(Image Courtesy of Wiki Commons)
It should be noted that Nixon – a former lawyer – also served two terms as Vice President under Dwight D. Eisenhower. As an aside, if you’d like to learn more about Richard Nixon, you might enjoy watching “Nixon,” a film by Oliver Stone and starring one of the world’s best actors – Anthony Hopkins. Here’s one of the best scenes of the film, where Nixon meets Richard Helms, then the head of the CIA. This scene was deleted from the film when Helm’s family threatened to sue Oliver Stone.
These days, when we look at OSHA, we can obviously see that its creation back on December 29th, 1970 was a terrific thing. What’s amazing about OSHA is that 2,400 inspectors are looking after 130 million American workers.
For those who may or may not know how dangerous the world is construction can be, consider the use of ordinary tools of the various trades such as welding torches (which can burn hotter than the Sun), circular saws, bandsaws, nail guns and grinders. A man or woman without fear is a fool, and there can be no field of human endeavor – other than construction. Construction workers use these tools every single day all around the world as they seek to build a better future.
A construction worker sends sparks flying at a major project in Oakland, CA.
(Photograph by Anthony C. LoBaido)
In postmodern times, we have insurance for our cars, health, life and death, cargo, transportation, construction and other areas of human endeavor. CEO Thomas Rockford of LifeAnt.com takes the view that life insurance, including both whole life and term life, should be easily accessible to online shoppers. That’s all well and good. But for the American worker, the idea is to prevent injuries and accidents before they happen. That’s where OSHA comes into play.
OSHA has a few bedrock provisions that are important for American workers. There’s the “General Duty Clause,” which seeks to impose a generic duty on employers to keep their workplaces safe. There is also the “Refusal to Work/Whistleblowing Provisions” which protect workers from being fired because of whistleblowing. The “Hazardous Communications Regulations” require employers to provide information on hazardous chemicals, material safety data sheets, training, and education, as well as lists of hazardous chemicals in various work areas.
The passage of the OSHA Act was a bedrock for American workers. Perhaps the Soviet Union took notice that American capitalists were taking the safety of our workers very seriously. The writing and reading of the OSHA rulebook is a monumental, lifetime achievement in and of itself. As mentioned, it was indeed written in blood. Today, a great deal of construction is carried out by migrant, Hispanic (both legal and illegal), African-American, ethnic-European and other workers.
This giant melting pot comes together on a daily basis in a way other sub and micro-groups do not. One of the greatest things about the field of construction is that there’s an esprit de corps. Men (and sometimes women) get banged up at work. They get cuts and scrapes. They endure this for the sake of their families. Thanks to OSHA they have a helping hand.