OSHA’s Barab Testifies about State-Plan States Before Congress

Nov. 3, 2009
Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary for OSHA, told a Congressional committee that the serious shortcomings discovered during his agency's evaluation of the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration's safety program raised concerns about federal OSHA's monitoring of all state plan states.

Barab said in testimony before the House Committee on Education and Labor that, as a result of deficiencies found in Nevada OSHA's program and this administration's goal to move from reaction to prevention, federal OSHA will implement a number of changes to strengthen the oversight, monitoring and evaluation of all state programs.

"To improve oversight immediately, I sent interim guidance to OSHA regional administrators about the monitoring tools available to them and encouraged more in-depth investigation of potential problems,” said Barab. "To ensure that deficiencies similar to those found in Nevada do not exist in any of the other state plans, OSHA will conduct a baseline evaluation, similar to what we conducted in Nevada, for every state that administers its own program. These evaluations will lead to better program performance and consistency throughout all state plans."

Although federal OSHA is strengthening its oversight of state plan programs, Barab also pointed out the benefits of state programs. They add resources to the federal program and cover state and local government employees not covered by federal OSHA. Federal OSHA strongly supports the initiative and dedication of state programs.

"We want to work together with the states and provide assistance before a state's program becomes deficient and causes worker deaths, injuries and illness," said Barab. "We are not trying to change the nature of our relationship between federal and state OSHA, but we need to speak with one voice and assure American workers they will receive adequate protection regardless of the state in which they work."

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs. Federal OSHA approves and monitors the state plans and provides up to 50 percent of an approved plan's operating costs. Twenty-five states and two American territories have sought and obtained plan approval.

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