OSHA has concluded a special evaluation of the twenty-five state-run occupational safety and health programs under its jurisdiction. The review was initiated after a 2009 special OSHA report on Nevada's program, prompted by numerous construction-related fatalities in Las Vegas, identified operational deficiencies in that state.
OSHA says its goal is to identify problems in state-run programs before they result in serious injuries or fatalities. While the agency found many positives in the state programs, it also found deficiencies, including concerns about identification of hazards, proper classifications of hazards, proposed penalty levels, and failure to follow up on violations to ensure that workplace safety and health problems are corrected.
States have 30 days to provide a formal response, including a detailed corrective action plan for addressing findings and recommendations. Each state's formal response will be public information and available online as soon as it is received.
According to OSHA, some of the problems identified could stem from significant budget constraints in many of the states and may also be the result of less intensive federal oversight. The agency intends to provide assistance in implementing corrective actions and will work closely with state officials to review progress.
State plan standards and enforcement must be at least as effective as federal OSHA in providing safe and healthful employment to workers. In addition, state plans operate under authority of state law, not delegated federal authority. This means that in order to operate its own plan, a state must enact an equivalent of the federal OSH Act and must use administrative and regulatory procedures to adopt its own standards, regulations and operating procedures, all of which must be updated within six months of any change in the federal program.
The review also identified areas where states have adopted standards and procedures exceeding federal OSHA's requirements, such as injury and illness prevention programs in California, Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota; the adoption of a cranes and derricks rule prior to OSHA's in North Carolina, Washington, and Maryland; and Oregon's requirement that employers abate serious workplace violations during the contest period, a legal tool under consideration in Congress but still missing from federal OSHA.
The report for each of the 25 states: including Connecticut, whose state-run plan applies to public employees only: is available at www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/efame/index.html.