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Turning points in our history

Oregon OSHA's work to create safer and healthier workplaces received a boost in 1990. That is when major legislative changes – known as the Mahonia Hall reforms – were enacted to revamp Oregon's workers' compensation system.

outside Mahonial Hall
Mahonia Hall

One of the changes required employers to maintain joint labor and management safety committees to actively address potential on-the-job hazards – a requirement that Oregon OSHA enforces to this day. Another change put more inspectors and consultants in the field to bolster the safety and health of workers across Oregon.

For some, the reforms were about curbing the high costs of workers' compensation in Oregon. However, then-insurance commissioner Ted Kulongoski (he served as Oregon's governor from 2003 to 2011) put things in perspective by noting that workers' compensation and worker safety are intertwined.

Ted Kulongoski, 1980
Ted Kulongoski circa 1980

There's a simple fact about workers' comp," Kulongoski said. “If you want to have low workers' comp insurance rates, don't have any accidents."

Oregon OSHA underwent another evolution in the mid-1990s. During that time, Oregon OSHA adopted two major programs: the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) and the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

SHARP logo

SHARP coaches companies on how to effectively manage workplace safety and health. In turn, companies are recognized for their success in reaching specific benchmarks during the five-year program.

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VPP logo

VPP encourages companies to effectively protect workers by going well beyond minimum safety requirements. The program is built on the idea that enforcement of safety requirements alone can never fully achieve the objectives of the Oregon Safe Employment Act.

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Designed to achieve positive, lasting results for workplace safety and health, both programs continue to help employers go beyond mere compliance with safety and health rules.

Employees of Woodfold Manufacturing, Inc., a SHARP Alliance Graduate
SHARP Alliance Graduate, Woodfold Manufacturing, Inc., Forest Grove, Oregon