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To many people, Labor Day is a day to mark the “unofficial end of summer” with trips to the beach, cookouts or discount shopping. The real meaning of Labor Day, however, is to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers. It also marks the beginning of the fight for serious workplace reform, including workplace health and safety.

The Occupation Health and Safety Act has been instrumental in the reform of workplace health and safety. Signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon, the act was intended to ensure safe and healthy work conditions for American workers. With the signing of this act, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) was formed in 1971. 

Since its inception, OSHA has raised workplace hazard awareness, implemented standards and regulations and provided accident prevention training. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, OSHA and other safety agencies have caused the incidence rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses among private industry workplaces to fall from 10.9 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers in 1972 to 2.8 in 2018. The decrease is shown in worker fatalities too. OSHA estimated that 14,000 workers died on the job in 1970. In the last 50 years, the number of fatalities has decreased yearly, resulting in 5,250 worker fatalities in 2018.

Labor Day galvanized the American workforce, ushering in activism, regulations and laws that still benefit American workers today. Learn more about the progress OSHA has made in the fight for worker health and safety.

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Shelby Kimes is a Marketing Content Writer in the marketing department for NC State Industrial Expansion Solutions. She writes marketing content for various IES and media platforms to communicate the services and values of IES. She also writes the marketing material needed to alert existing and/or potential clients of any updates within IES. She previously interned with the marketing department at Greenville Parks and Recreation in North Carolina. Shelby graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor’s in Sports Studies and a Minor in Marketing/Business Administration.