Protecting workers from being injured while working on the job is a concern of local, state, and federal laws, and most people recognize that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (”OSHA”) regulations impact employee work environments in all sorts of different jobs and workplaces. OSHA posters are displayed in public areas and OSHA inspectors make visits to mills, plants, factories, construction sites, and other work sites to make sure that OSHA standards are being followed.
Federal OSHA, Indiana OSHA, and Illinois Labor Department All Serve to Protect Workers on the Job
However, federal laws and regulations are not the only protections in place for workers in Indiana and Illinois and other states. State agencies with state statutes covering employee safety standards and protecting workers on the job are also on the books. Illinois has developed its own structure of worker safety standards; Indiana has adopted the same regulations and standards as those developed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA agency.
Indiana’s occupational safety regulations are overseen by the Indiana Occupational and Safety Administration (”Indiana OSHA”) while Illinois’s worker safety is monitored by the Illinois Department of Labor.
Will State Regulation Take On a Bigger Role in Worker Safety than Federal OSHA in the Future?
Currently, the federal regulations promulgated in Washington, D.C., and implemented by OSHA’s regional offices are assumed by most Americans to be the primary force in regulating and protecting workers on the job in the United States. However, as pointed out recently in an article published in Safety and Health Magazine, the American Industrial Hygiene Association warns that states like Indiana and Illinois may have to take on more responsibility for occupational safety regulation because the federal program is facing two huge hurdles involving (1) problems in the rulemaking process and (2) funding and budget concerns.
Assuming that AIHA’s viewpoint is shared by other industry insiders, then workers on the job need to be aware that they cannot assume that federal protections (OSHA) will be stalwartly protecting them from injuries on the job and that their individual state labor departments may be undertaking a bigger responsibility for workplace safety and occupational safety regulation.
Does this mean that workers in Indiana and Illinois may be at a higher risk of on the job work injuries and accidents on the job?
Maybe. Statistics show that work areas are dangerous for workers with the most stringent regulations and monitoring in place; if the AIHA warning is correct, then the risk of on the job work accidents seems to be on the rise.
“With the federal government tied up in other matters – the budget and debt ceiling, for example – and a broken rulemaking process, it takes months, if not years, for legislation and regulations to be enacted at the federal level,” said Aaron K. Trippler, AIHA’s chief liaison with Congress and federal agencies. “That’s why it’s important to devote resources to monitor state legislation and engage in rulemaking efforts of interest to the OEHS profession at the state level. And nowadays, it appears that legislation passed at the state level eventually comes up at the federal level.”
Following are the most notable issues that are likely to be on states’ legislative and regulatory agendas in the coming months:
Safe patient handling: Currently, approximately twelve states have enacted some form of legislation or regulation addressing safe patient handling. The issue has also seen movement on the federal level with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) recent launch of new educational Web resources to help hospitals prevent worker injuries, enhance safe patient handling programs and implement health and safety management systems.
Mold abatement and licensing: The states have continued to examine the issue of mold abatement to determine whether it should be regulated and whether those involved in this work should be licensed. However, as some states are attempting to set exposure limits, others are trying to set standards or legislation to abate and remediate. One of the major problems in enacting this type of legislation is deciding who is qualified for licensing and who is not.
Hazardous substances: More states have begun discussing how to deal with hazardous materials—addressing everything from asbestos to all kinds of chemicals. This may be due in part to the fact that the federal government continues to face the consequences of chemical hazards, such as those that caused the devastating fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, in 2013.
Title protection and legal recognition of the profession: AIHA has been successful in enacting this title protection legislation in more than 20 states. To date, there are more than 350 titles in occupational safety and health, yet fewer than 30 or so are granted by accredited bodies such as the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH). Policymakers are at a loss as to which professionals to recognize and how to determine their qualifications.