Stay in the Know on OSHA Regulations

A window washer is busy at work.

Most organizations and workers are subject to some form of OSHA, but it's important to know which laws apply to which workers.

For the most part, HR leaders are knowledgeable in federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. But, what about more stringent state workplace safety requirements, like those under California safety regulations (called Cal/OSHA)?

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, organizations must provide employees with a safe workplace by establishing industry standards, training and education, reports the DOL. Most organizations and workers are subject to some form of OSHA regulations, but it's important to know which laws apply to which workers.

State-Level OSHA Regulations

OSHA authorizes states to create their own safety regulations as long as they are consistent with Federal OSHA. According to the DOL, OSHA-approved state plans are "OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states rather than federal OSHA."

According to OSHA, "Twenty-six states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans. Twenty-two State Plans (21 states and one U.S. territory) cover both private and state and local government workplaces. The remaining six State Plans (five states and one U.S. territory) cover state and local government workers only." For the OSHA map showing which states have their own plans, click here.

These state plans must provide at least as much protection for workers and those protections must be consistent with federal OSHA, but the states are also free to make additional safety requirements or requirements that are more stringent.

For example, Virginia adopted unique standards relating to construction and agriculture industries. Florida has unique hurricane codes in its plan. Minnesota adopted lengthy standards applying to construction. Maryland has specific and more stringent requirements for heavy equipment training.

California has additional standards with respect to agriculture, child labor, heat and noise exposure and repetitive motion injuries, among others. Cal/OSHA regulations also include a high-rise window cleaning program, a heat illness prevention program for outdoor workers and an injury and illness prevention program, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations. Additional registration requirements are mandatory for organizations engaged in certain activities such as asbestos-related work and regulated carcinogens. Further, specific notifications are required for operators of mines and those involved in lead work.

Compliance With Federal and State Requirements

Multi-state organizations should review the requirements for each state in which they have workers to confirm that they're in compliance with that state's requirements. For single-state operators, these organizations should first determine whether Federal or State workplace safety laws apply, and then make sure their equipment and practices meet the correct saftey standards.

Once you know which laws apply, it's important to make any needed changes and incorporate the applicable safety requirements into employee handbooks, training and education. If you have questions both State and Federal workplace safety offices provide further information on rules and compliance. You may also want to consult with an employment lawyer familiar with workplace safety issues.

A safer workplace benefits everyone.

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