The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. This law created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training, and assistance to employers and workers.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
History of RCRA
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act—commonly referred to as RCRA—is our nation’s primary law governing the disposal of solid and hazardous waste. Congress passed RCRA on October 21, 1976, to address the increasing problems the nation faced from our growing volume of municipal and industrial waste. RCRA, which amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, set national goals for:
- Protecting human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal.
- Conserving energy and natural resources.
- Reducing the amount of waste generated.
- Ensuring that wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner.
To achieve these goals, RCRA established three distinct yet interrelated programs:
- The solid waste program, under RCRA Subtitle D, encourages states to develop comprehensive plans to manage nonhazardous industrial solid waste and municipal solid waste, sets criteria for municipal solid waste landfills and other solid waste disposal facilities, and prohibits the open dumping of solid waste.
- The hazardous waste program, under RCRA Subtitle C, establishes a system for controlling hazardous waste from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal—in effect, from “cradle to grave.”
- The underground storage tank (UST) program, under RCRA Subtitle I, regulates underground storage tanks containing hazardous substances and petroleum products.
RCRA banned all open dumping of waste, encouraged source reduction and recycling, and promoted the safe disposal of municipal waste. RCRA also mandated strict controls over the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. The first RCRA regulations, “Hazardous Waste and Consolidated Permit Regulations,” published in the Federal Register on May 19, 1980 (45 FR 33066; May 19, 1980), established the basic “cradle-to-grave” approach to hazardous waste management that exists today.
RCRA was amended and strengthened by Congress in November 1984 with the passing of the federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA). These amendments to RCRA required phasing out land disposal of hazardous waste. Some of the other mandates of this strict law include increased enforcement authority for the EPA, more stringent hazardous waste management standards, and a comprehensive underground storage tank program.
RCRA has been amended on two occasions since HSWA:
- Federal Facility Compliance Act of 1992—strengthened enforcement of RCRA at federal facilities.
- Land Disposal Program Flexibility Act of 1996 (5 pp, 24KB)—provided regulatory flexibility for land disposal of certain wastes.
RCRA focuses only on active and future facilities and does not address abandoned or historical sites. These sites are managed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)—commonly known as Superfund.
Information collection request submitted to OMB for review and approval; comment request; requirements for generators, transporters, and waste management facilities under the RCRA hazardous waste manifest system (renewal). (2015). (). Lanham: Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc. Retrieved from the Trident Online Library
Part 1: This Case Assignment explores the OSH Act, including its inception and current state. Please answer the following questions and provide support from the literature:
- What were the two most important factors leading to passage of the OSH Act? Explain why and justify your choice.
- What were the positions of labor and industry about the need for federal legislation?
- Describe three major issues that were debated during passage of the Act.
- Explain compromises that were reached to assure the legislation would pass.
- Why are so many of OSHA’s rules out of date?
Part 2: This Case Assignment investigates RCRA.
- Under RCRA, what are defined as the generators of hazardous wastes?
- Congress is reluctant to meddle in the internal production decisions of private companies. Therefore RCRA does not require minimization of hazardous wastes. Should there be enforceable limits for the generation of hazardous wastes, just as there are limits on the industrial discharge of water pollutants under other rules such as the Clean Water Act? Explain the rationale for your answer and illustrate with support from the literature.