The 20th century in America was marked by more injuries and deaths from unsafe workplaces than from wars; the 1911 New York City Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was a “poster child” incident that demonstrated the need for serious reform. Linder, Marc. “Fatal Subtraction: Statistical MIAs on the Industrial Battlefield,” 20 J. Legis. 99 (1994).

In response to this kind of incident and related death and injury statistics, in 1970 the United States Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to “assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources.” 29 U.S.C.A. §651(b). The OSHA Act requires contractors to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are … likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” 29 U.S.C.A. §654(a).