State Vs. Federal OSHA Codes

 States with non-Federal Plans in Blue and Gray

States with non-Federal Plans in Blue and Gray

There Are Actually over Two Dozen OSHA's

Surprise!!! OSHA is not just one entity, it’s in fact a couple dozen. This makes it really tough for manufacturers of Overhead Industrial Cranes. When Congress passed OSHA in 1971, it yielded to what I suspect was the typical fight between Federal and State Rights advocates.

OSHA was passed while I was in high school. I didn’t really pay attention to those type of things as an 18 year old.  States Rights vs. Federal control has been an issue since Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, I suspect it was an issue in the passing of the OSHA legislation too.

Who's In Charge Here?

The long and short of it is, the Federal law allow for states to pass their own versions of OSHA, provided the states’ version was equal to or greater than that of the federal statute. 

The really confusing thing is that some states passed a far more stringent and complex versions (like Michigan, Oregon, Washington and California) and some states passed a virtual duplicate of the federal statute ( like Indiana, Illinois and New York). My puzzlement is in the fact that so many states passed near duplicates of the federal statute.  Why? My only guess is that it further swelled the ranks of state appointed positions and therefore provided governors’ with more appointed positions, as a form of payola to party loyalists.

Writing the Governor

As a quick aside, I once incurred a violation for not having a hand-railing on three steps up to a job site field trailer. I was young and naive at the time and told my foremen to remedy the situation immediately. As the inspection wrapped up I pointed out to the inspector that the hand rail was already in place. The inspector nodded and smiled.

A couple weeks later I received a an official looking document from the state. In the document it listed the stair hand railing as a violation with a fine of $500 (I think that was the number, it’s been 20+ years). I immediately call the OSHA office in Indianapolis and politely complained. I was told my rectification of the problem has no bearing on the violation. 

At this point I blew a gasket. I said they needed to tell me the purpose of the OSHA code. Was I mistaken that it’s purpose was to make the workplace safer? If the code was to be a revenue source, just tell me and I’ll send in my money, but at least be honest and call it a tax and not a safety code. 

Immediately after hanging up the phone, I wrote the governor of Indiana and  told him my story.

About a week later I received a call for the Director of Indiana OSHA. Here’s how the conversation went;

OSHA Director:
Are you the Larry Dunville that wrote the governor about an OSHA violation. 
Me:
Yes. 

OSHA Director:
You need to understand, you shouldn’t write the governor, you should write me.
Me:
Frankly, I was mad and my question was about the very purpose of the OSHA law.

OSHA Director:
Don’t write the governor.
Me:
The OSHA law should be to make workers safer.

OSHA Director:
Mr. Dunville, you're not listening. Don’t write the governor.
Me:
But I had remedied the problem before the inspector had even left the site.

OSHA Director:
Don’t write the governor.
Me:
Will I get relief on my infraction because the problem was immediately remedied?

OSHA Director:
No and don’t ever write the governor again. 

End of call.

Life Lesson

If you really want OSHA’s attention in a state administered OSHA plan, write the governor. You won’t get your money back, but it gives you a great deal of satisfaction getting the state director in hot water with his boss!

Reference Paper

For a summary on all the state OSHA plans, click below. The paper was written in August of 2016 and is to the best of my knowledge current, but if you have any detailed questions about a particular states safety codes, make sure to directly contact the appropriate state occupational safety website. Contact information for all the state programs is included in the downloadable PDF file.

Down loadable State OSHA Plans Summary PDF.