Illinois has applied for approval to develop a public employee-only occupational safety and health program to be administered by the Illinois Department of Labor. The Federal Register notice provides a 30-day comment period and offers an opportunity to request an informal public hearing.
If the plan is approved, Illinois will become the fourth state, along with Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, to operate a safety and health program specifically for public employees. The Virgin Islands also operates a public employee safety and health program. An additional 21 states and Puerto Rico have programs that cover both public and private sector workplaces.
“The Illinois Department of Labor is to be commended for taking this step forward to provide protection for its public sector workers,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. “This should serve as a model for other states that are interested in maintaining the safety and health of their public workforces.”
The plan, if approved, will cover more than 1 million public workers, including approximately 161,200 state government workers and roughly 690,000 municipal workers, along with workers in the public education sector. Private sector workers will remain under the jurisdiction of federal OSHA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 at 29 CFR Part 1956 allows states and territories to establish plans that cover only state and local government employees, who are excluded from federal coverage. Once a state plan is approved, federal OSHA funds up to 50 percent of the program’s operating costs.
To be eligible for initial (developmental) approval as a public employee-only state plan, a state must be able to operate an occupational safety and health program that is, or will be, at least as effective as the federal program.