OSHA Seeking Comments on Plan to Cover N.J. Public Employees

New Jersey public employees would be covered by a safety and\r\nhealth plan under a proposal to permit the state\r\nto operate its own job safety and health program.

New Jersey public employees would be covered by a safety and health plan for the first time under a proposal to permit the state to operate its own job safety and health program.

OSHA is currently seeking public comment on the proposal.

If approved, New Jersey will join Connecticut and New York as one of three states authorized by OSHA to offer a safety and health program specifically for public employees.

The New Jersey plan would be the first new state plan since New York was added in 1984.

Twenty-three other states have OSHA-approved plans covering private sector employment that extend coverage to state and local government employees.

"Our hard-working men and women in the public sector deserve to be protected under a quality safety and health program," said OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress. "The state of New Jersey has shown a strong commitment to protecting their public employees and making workplace safety a priority."

Approval of the New Jersey plan is contingent on the availability of federal grant funding in the FY 2001 Department of Labor appropriation, which has been put on hold until Congress reconvenes after Nov. 14.

The New Jersey plan would be administered by the New Jersey Department of Labor and would cover more than 470,000 public employees, including approximately 112,900 state government workers and roughly 357,100 municipal employees.

Private sector workers remain under the jurisdiction of federal OSHA.

The New Jersey plan has adopted standards identical to most federal OSHA safety and health standards and has committed to bring all of its standards into line with OSHA requirements.

The state plan also provides that future OSHA standards and revisions will be adopted by the state.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and 29 CFR Part 1056 allow states and territories to establish plans that cover only state and local government employees.

Once a state plan is approved, OSHA funds up to 50 percent of the program''s operating costs.

To be eligible for initial approval of a developmental public employee only State plan, a state must propose to operate an occupational safety and health program that is or will be, "at least as effective," as the federal program.

It also must have a sufficient number of safety inspectors and industrial hygienists to run the program effectively.

Finally, the state must provide data to federal OSHA on its activities.

Written comments on OSHA''s proposal to approve the New Jersey Plan as well as any requests for public hearings need to be submitted by Dec. 13, 2000.

Electronic comments may be submitted to www.ecomments.osha.gov/.

Notice of the proposal is scheduled for publication in Monday''s issue of the Federal Register.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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