Maine Public Workers to Fall Under OSHA’s Newest State Plan

By Roy Maurer Jun 9, 2015
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The Pine Tree State could soon become the 28th U.S. state or territory to manage its own occupational safety and health plan.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a proposed rulemaking May 20, 2015, to approve a new plan for Maine’s 81,000 public-sector employees.

Private- and federal-sector workers in the state would remain under federal OSHA jurisdiction.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, states and territories are granted the option to operate their own OSHA program, provided the program is as effective as federal OSHA.

State and local government employees are excluded from federal coverage, leaving OSHA-approved state plans as the only coverage eligible to them.

“The Maine Department of Labor is to be commended for taking this step forward to provide protection for these workers,” OSHA administrator David Michaels said in a press release. “This should serve as a model for other states that are interested in maintaining the safety and health of their public workforces.”

Maine currently has a staff of two safety compliance officers. Three safety and two health consultants offer the state’s equivalent to OSHA’s onsite consultation program to private-sector employers throughout the state. A health consultant presently accompanies and assists the enforcement officers if the state receives a health complaint. As a requirement of being approved for its own OSHA plan, the state has agreed to maintain a fully trained staff of two safety compliance officers and one health compliance officer for enforcement inspections within six months of approval.

Currently, 21 states and Puerto Rico operate federally approved state plans that cover both the public and private sectors. If approved, Maine would join Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and the Virgin Islands in administering a plan for the public sector only.

OSHA monitors and evaluates state plans annually through the Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation process. This process is used to determine whether a plan is continuing to operate at least as effectively as OSHA, track a plan’s progress in achieving its strategic and annual performance goals, and ensure that the plan is meeting its mandated responsibilities.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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