Friday, June 1, 2012

Where Federal OSHA (or other agency) Jurisdiction Supersedes State OSHA

Most people associated with the field of occupational safety and health already know that states and territories of the United States of America have the option to implement their own “State Plan” OSHA program to regulate workplace safety within their boundaries. Approximately half the states and territories have opted to do just that. So affected employers in those states follow the state OSHA rules, display the state OSHA posters, report certain injuries and illnesses to state OSHA offices, and are subject to inspections by state OSHA personnel. However, you must make certain that you are aware that employers in certain workplaces located within the boundaries of state-plan OSHA states still fall under the jurisdiction of Federal OSHA, or in some cases, another quasi-OSHA organization.

The easiest way to determine which employers are covered by a certain state’s OSHA program and which remain under Federal OSHA (or other) coverage is to refer to the map at this link and click somewhere on the state in question. You will be directed to a page on the website that contains information about OSHA coverage within that specific state; including specific details about who is covered by what agency (refer to the paragraph on the page titled “Jurisdiction”).

What you’ll find, in general, is that Federal OSHA still retains jurisdiction over employers at workplaces such as the U.S. Post Offices and other federal installations in states operating a state-plan OSHA program, which seems logical. But I also learned (the hard way) a few years ago that in most state-plan states, Federal OSHA also retained jurisdiction over most Maritime operations, including workplaces such as but not limited to, ship and barge builders and repair facilities, long-shoring operations, and other privately-owned maritime operations situated on or along the navigable waters of the United States.

As an example of how complex the jurisdictional boundaries can be in the states that run their own OSHA program, consider the exceptions in the state of Iowa, as they are very specific:

"The Iowa State Plan applies to all public and private sector places of employment in the State with the exception of private sector maritime activities; marine terminals; longshoring; federal government-owned, contractor-operated military/munitions facilities; bridge construction projects spanning the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers between Iowa and other states; federal government employers and employees; and the United States Postal Service; which are subject to Federal OSHA jurisdiction. The U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration exercises jurisdiction with respect to field sanitation and temporary labor camps."

So as you can see, jurudictional issues are not as simple as you may think, and can change from area to area within the state. (For further explaination, refer to the comment submitted (below) to this post by a retired OSHA Area Director).

Another area that caught my eye while doing research for this blog post is the Native American reservations. Many enterprises within these areas are usually not covered by state or federal OSHA. However, I was surprised to learn of an agency called Navajo Nation OSHA (NNOSHA), formed in 2000, that regulates employee safety at workplaces on their Tribe's land; I am not sure if other Tribes have their own organization to regulate work safety, but I did find this very interesting.

Are you aware of any other workplaces in state-plan OSHA states that are still regulated by Federal OSHA or some other agency? If you would like to share that information with our readers, or if you just want to make a comment about this blog post, please share your thoughts in the “comments” section below. And please, pass a link to this blog post along to others in your network who you think may benefit from this information.

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