The Occupational Safety and Health Act encourages states to develop and operate, under federal OSHA guidance, state occupational safety and health programs. Once a state plan is approved, OSHA funds up to 50 percent of the program's operating costs. States are required to provide standards and enforcement programs, as well as voluntary compliance activities, which are at least as effective as the federal program.
To gain OSHA approval as a developmental plan, a state must demonstrate that within three years it will provide:
Enforcement and appeals procedures,
Public employee protection,
A sufficient number of competent enforcement personnel, and
Training education and technical assistance programs.
If, at any time during this period or later, it appears that the state is capable of enforcing standards in accordance with the above requirements, OSHA may enter into an "operational status agreement" with the state. OSHA generally limits its enforcement activity to areas not covered by the state in the agreement and ceases all concurrent federal enforcement. Scheduled, accident and complaint inspections are generally the primary responsibility of the state. OSHA closely monitors state programs.
When all development steps concerning legislation, resources and other requirements have been completed and approved, OSHA certifies that a state has the legal, administrative, and enforcement means necessary to operate effectively. This action renders no judgement on how well or poorly a state is actually operating its program but merely attests to the structural completeness of its program. After this certification, there is a period of at least one year to determine if a state is effectively providing safety and health protection. If it is found that the state is operating at an effective level and other requirements including compliance staffing levels are met, final approval of the plan may be granted and federal authority will cease in those areas over which the state has jurisdiction.
OSHA continues its monitoring and evaluation of the state program to assure the state maintains its level of effectiveness. If this level should decline, OSHA can begin proceedings to withdraw approval of the program and to reinstitute federal enforcement authority.
If your state operates an OSHA-approved state program, you should become familiar with it. State safety and health standards under approved plans must keep pace with federal standards, and state plans must guarantee employer and employee rights as does federal OSHA.
State plans developed for the private sector also must, to the extent permitted by state law, provide coverage for state and local government employees. OSHA rules also permit states to develop plans limited in coverage to public sector (state and local government) employees only; in such cases, private sector employment remains under federal jurisdiction.
Anyone finding inadequacies or other problems in the administration of a state's program may file a complaint about state program administration with the appropriate regional administrator for OSHA. The complainant's name is kept confidential. OSHA investigates all such complaints and, where complaints are found to be valid, requires appropriate corrective action on the part of the state.