EHS Administration, Health and Wellness, Regulatory Developments

OSHA Weighs Massachusetts State Plan

On June 30, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed granting initial approval for a Massachusetts state safety and health plan covering state and local government workers (87 Federal Register (FR) 39033).

The Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (DLS) has submitted a developmental state safety and health plan for initial OSHA approval. OSHA proposed granting that initial approval based on an assessment that the Massachusetts plan meets federal criteria for state plans or will meet the criteria within 3 years.

Massachusetts has provided assurances that the state plan will be at least as effective as federal OSHA in protecting the safety and health of state and local government workers.

“We applaud the state’s decision to extend to public sector workers the same workplace safety protections as those afforded to private sector workers,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in an agency statement.

“Massachusetts is committed to protecting the safety and health of state and local government workers.”

The DLS has been working with OSHA to obtain approval for a state plan for occupational safety and health in state and local government employment. The DLS submitted a draft plan to OSHA in December 2020, with final revisions to the plan in June 2022. OSHA determined the plan is approvable as a developmental state plan.

Federal OSHA has regulatory and enforcement authority in private sector workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. With OSHA approval, states may develop and maintain their own programs protecting the safety and health of private sector workers and state and local government workers. While a state plan may cover private sector workplaces, it must include coverage of state and local government employees.

OSHA proposed funding initial approval of the Massachusetts plan out of funds available for state plans in the Department of Labor’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget.

OSHA provides as much as 50 percent of funding for state programs and monitors state plan performance. Federal OSHA recently proposed revoking final approval for Arizona’s state plan, raising the possibility the federal agency could resume concurrent workplace safety and health enforcement in the state.

The agency began the revocation process because Arizona failed to adopt the healthcare COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) that OSHA issued on June 21, 2021, rendering the state plan less effective than federal OSHA.

Most current state plans cover both private sector workers and state and local government workers. Programs in Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and the U.S. Virgin Islands only cover public sector employment. In those states and the territory, federal OSHA retains enforcement authority for the private sector.

If the Massachusetts state plan receives federal approval, it would be the newest OSHA-approved state plan for state and local government employees. The plan would cover approximately 6,500 public sector employers and nearly 434,000 public employees throughout the state, according to OSHA. Private sector and federally employed workers in Massachusetts would remain under federal OSHA jurisdiction.

Comments and requests for an informal hearing must be submitted by Aug. 1. Interested persons may request an informal hearing and OSHA would hold a hearing if the assistant secretary finds that substantial objections have been filed.