Posted on: June 2, 2022

OSHA State Plans: How Many States Have Their Own?

osha state plan

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency dedicated to regulating and enforcing worker safety. Congress established it under the US Department of Labor in 1970 when it passed the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.

Given that it's a federal law, you'd think jurisdiction would be pretty straightforward, but it's not. The question of who regulates and enforces your occupational safety and health depends on your location, industry, job duties, economic sector, and more.

One of the wrinkles is that the OSH Act allows states and territories to assume some of OSHA's responsibilities as long as they're "at least as effective" as the federal version.

So, which states have their own OSHA State Plan, and what does that actually mean?

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Is OSHA In Every State?

Well…yes and no.

You'll see people talk about jurisdiction in terms of "OSHA states" versus "non-OSHA states," and sometimes they'll even refer to "states where OSHA doesn't have jurisdiction."

Whether this comes from sloppy shorthand or a genuine misunderstanding of OSH jurisdiction, it's not entirely accurate.

The US code gives OSHA jurisdiction over occupational safety and health

  • For
    • Private-sector employers
    • Federal agencies
  • In
  • Except for
    • Workplace hazards that are already regulated by another federal agency (like the Mine Safety and Health Administration)
    • Self-employed individuals (ie, independent contractors)
    • Immediate family members of farm employers

However, the code allows states and territories to go through an approval process to expand coverage to the public sector, take primary responsibility for the private sector, or both.

Here's the important thing, though: even when primary responsibility is turned over to the state, it's not like OSHA washes its hands of its workers' occupational safety and health. They maintain oversight by:

  • Putting each State Plan through the Federal Annual Monitoring Evaluation (FAME) process. In other words, every year, OSHA evaluates a State Plan to determine whether it's operating at least as effectively as OSHA, tracking its progress toward strategic and annual performance goals, and making sure it's meeting its mandated responsibilities.
  • Requiring new federal standards to be incorporated into State Plans. When federal standards change, states have a certain amount of time to update and get approval for their own regulations to meet or exceed the federal minimum.
  • Taking Complaints About State Program Administration (CASPA). You can lodge a confidential complaint about any aspect of a State Plan's operation or administration for OSHA to investigate.

Federal and state agencies also share information to ensure that multi-state employers don't use jurisdiction to skirt the rules.

If a state gets too far off-track, OSHA can and will intervene (like it did in Hawaii in the early 2010s).

How Do OSHA State Plans Work?

There are multiple phases to the State Plan approval process in which states have to prove the completeness of their plan and that they're capable of enforcing standards independently. The plan and its enforcement must be "at least as effective" as the federal agency to get approval.

The process takes several years, and if it goes well, OSHA will turn responsibility (and funding) over to the state or territory – but only for the activities or matters that are covered in the State Plan.

For example, some states have a plan that only applies to the public sector (state, territorial, or local government employees not covered by federal OSH law). In these states, the federal agency stays in charge of private employers. Additionally, federal employees always remain under OSHA's jurisdiction.

Most OSHA State Plans adopt federal standards verbatim, so the rules are identical. But some states expand on federal standards by making standards more stringent or adding regulations to address hazards that affect their workers.

California's plan, known as Cal/OSHA or Cal-OSHA, is famous for being much stricter than federal law. They pioneered lockout/tagout (LOTO) standards before the federal government, have higher minimum permissible exposure limits (PELs), and require every employer to have a written and effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

Other states like Michigan, Oregon, and Washington State also have unique standards or more stringent protections.

How Many States Have Their Own OSHA Plans?

As of 2022, it's about half. Out of 50 states and 5 territories (plus DC), there are 27 states and 2 territories with an OSHA State Plan. Most of them cover the private sector, but in 5 states and one territory, the plans are public sector only.

There are a total of 29 states where OSHA has jurisdiction over the most private-sector workplaces (plus 4 territories and the District of Columbia). That includes states with no plan, as well as states with public-sector-only plans.

What States Have OSHA-Approved State Plans?

There are 22 states and one territory with State Plans that cover the public sector and most of the private sector:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Additionally, there are State Plans limited to the public sector in:

  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • New York State
  • The US Virgin Islands

Do You Need State-Specific OSHA Training?

Training on federal standards will serve most workers well, whether you're in an "OSHA or non-OSHA" state.

In states where the OSHA State Plan is significantly different, like California, you might need state-specific training. In other cases like New York, the State Plan standards are mostly the same as federal law but you need to account for stricter training requirements like NYC SST.

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