April 1, 2015
First Comprehensive Database of State OSHA Regulations and Laws Now Available
Public Citizen and the Public Health Law Research Program Release Free, Publicly Available Database Containing State Occupational Safety and Health Regulations and Laws
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Public Citizen and the Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the first comprehensive database of all state occupational safety and health regulations and laws intended to protect workers from specific workplace hazards, in the 25 states with federally authorized enforcement agencies.
The database is designed for workers, unions, employers, occupational safety and health researchers and advocates, and state and federal regulatory officials, as a tool to compare and contrast regulations and laws across different states and with existing federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules.
The database reveals that most of the 25 states have amended or supplemented one or more federal regulations, and several states have issued regulations or laws protecting workers from hazards – such as heat stress, workplace violence, combustible dust and musculoskeletal injuries – that have not yet been addressed in a federal OSHA regulation.
Every year, millions of work-related injuries and illnesses are reported, thousands of workers are killed on the job and tens of thousands more die from occupational diseases. Safety and health regulations and laws (also known collectively as “standards”) can prevent many of these deaths and injuries.
The 1970 federal Occupational Safety and Health Act established OSHA to protect workers from occupational safety and health hazards. The act also permitted states to substitute their own rulemaking and enforcement agencies for federal OSHA, as long as the state programs, also known as state OSHA plans, are “at least as effective” as the federal agency. This was intended as a way to allow states to address local needs and unique industries.
As of now, 25 states and two U.S. territories have federally approved state OSHA plans. The database includes all state OSHA-enforced standards that have not been adopted identically from federal OSHA, and that protect workers from specific workplace safety and health hazards.
The database was made possible through a $50,000 grant from PHLR. It is published on the program’s LawAtlas website, which was developed as a tool to help policymakers, advocates and researchers understand the various laws on a given topic, how they differ over time and across jurisdictions, and evaluate their impact.
Some key findings:
- The number of state standards issued by each of the 25 state OSHA plans varies widely. Just four states (California, Michigan, Oregon and Washington) are responsible for the vast majority of all state occupational safety and health standards.
- Seven states (Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee and Vermont) have retained more protective chemical exposure limits developed by federal OSHA in 1989 but rescinded by court order in 1993. Four states (California, Michigan, Oregon and Washington) have developed at least one chemical exposure limit that has never been adopted by federal OSHA.
- Three states (California, Minnesota and Washington) have developed standards protecting workers from heat stress.
- Three states (New Mexico, New York and Washington) have standards to prevent death and injury from workplace violence.
- Two states (California and Utah) have developed standards to prevent explosions from combustible dust.
- Two state plans (California and Minnesota) enforce standards or laws addressing safe patient handling requirements to minimize musculoskeletal injuries in health care workers, while California also has a rule addressing ergonomics injuries more generally.
- Two states (Michigan and Oregon) have especially informative websites, which compare their state standards with federal OSHA regulations, making it clear where they differ from the federal rules.
“This database shows that some state OSHA plans have been proactive and issued numerous regulations and laws that are a model for what is possible in other states and at federal OSHA,” said Dr. Sammy Almashat, researcher with Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.
“As the first publicly available clearinghouse for state occupational safety and health standards, we hope the database will be a useful resource for workers, employers, researchers and regulatory officials alike, allowing them to more easily identify states with certain standards and compare them with existing federal OSHA rules,” added Keith Wrightson, worker safety advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, who compiled the database with Almashat.