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The law that paved the way

Fifty years ago, Oregon enacted a landmark law advancing workplace safety and health: the Safe Employment Act. It was a seismic shift in how workers across the state were protected, replacing what previously had amounted to piecemeal efforts to create and maintain safe and healthy workplaces with a comprehensive program to shield workers from harm while on the job.

Governor Tom McCall and Cabinet Officials
In this photo taken in 1968, Oregon Gov. Tom McCall gathers with members of his cabinet for a press conference. Three years later, McCall signed an agreement with the federal government making Oregon the second state in the union to be certified to run its own OSHA plan.

What we know today as the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division – widely known as Oregon OSHA, a division of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services – was borne from the July 22, 1973, adoption of the Safe Employment Act.

cover of Senate Bill 44 from 1973
On July 22, 1973, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 44, creating the Oregon Safe Employment Act.

The law authorizes Oregon OSHA to enforce the state's on-the-job safety and health requirements. It requires employers to know the requirements that apply to their industry. It obligates employers to educate and train their workers. And it requires employers to comply with specific rules that apply to their workplace.

The adoption of the Safe Employment Act reflected a larger shift at the national level. The state law followed the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act, which authorized the federal government to set and enforce safety and health requirements across the United States.

Under an agreement signed with the federal government decades ago, Oregon is certified to run its own workplace safety and health program. That certification gives Oregon OSHA the flexibility to tailor its program and services to the unique needs of workers and employers in the state while fulfilling its obligations to federal OSHA.

Today, Oregon OSHA serves almost 2 million workers at more than 170,000 businesses across the state.