Hawaii, which gutted its workplace-safety division during the height of the recession, will reassume responsibility for enforcing safety standards in its manufacturing plants, starting Oct. 1.
Although Hawaii is a state-plan state, federal OSHA stepped in to oversee safety in manufacturing and other sectors after the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division (HIOSH) failed to meet OSHA's minimum standards for staffing and enforcement.
In a September 2012 agreement, OSHA and HIOSH shifted workplace-safety oversight to OSHA in all industry sectors except construction, transportation, warehousing and state and local government, and OSHA promised to help the state rebuild its workplace-safety program. The agreement established a three-year timetable for HIOSH to reassume sole enforcement authority in the state.
Per the agreement, HIOSH will regain enforcement authority over all manufacturing facilities on Oct. 1, with the exception of refineries. The next major enforcement milestone calls for HIOSH to reassume responsibility for regulating the accommodations/food-service industry by the end of fiscal year 2014 (Sept. 30, 2014).
"By continuing to work closely with OSHA, and in partnership with employers, we are on tracking in rebuilding the HIOSH program," Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a news release.
Budget cuts eviscerated HIOSH during the recession. In 2009, state-level cuts eliminated 32 of the agency's 51 positions, leaving HIOSH with funding for just 12 of the 22 compliance and consultation positions required by OSHA. Only 10 of the 12 budgeted positions were filled.
The impact on the state's safety-enforcement efforts was dramatic. In 2009, HIOSH completed only 426 of its goal of 835 inspections, and a federal review of the state's safety enforcement found that HIOSH misclassified violations and hazards in more than half of the reviewed cases.
In fiscal 2010, more layoffs reduced the agency's compliance staff to nine people – 50 percent below OSHA's benchmark for state-plan states.
The return of the manufacturing sector to state jurisdiction is the first milestone scheduled in the September 2012 agreement. As part of the agreement, OSHA is providing training and other resources to help HIOSH rebuild its safety program.
"The return of the manufacturing sector to our jurisdiction recognizes that we are hitting those milestones necessary to re-establish meaningful safety and health regulation, although the work is not finished," Dwight Takamine, director of the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said in a news release.