The U.S. Department of Labor has given the state of Illinois’ OSHA the authority to administer their very own occupational safety and health plan for public employees in the state. The notice of authorization for the public employee protection plan appeared in the recent edition of the Federal Register.

Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and the Virgin Islands are among those that were already given authorization by the federal OSHA. This special authority gives these states and territories the power to administer a safety and health program of standards and enforcement that is specifically for state and local government employees.

This latest approval is the first new state plan to be approved since New Jersey’s, which was added in 2001. Puerto Rico and twenty-one other states have OSHA-approved plans for the private sector that also extend coverage to state and local government employees.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (specifically in the 29 CFR Part 1956 regulation) allows states and territories to establish plans that cover only state and local government employees who are excluded from federal coverage. It states under the same Act that OSHA’s role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America’s working men and women. OSHA does this by setting and enforcing standards, as well as by providing training, outreach and education.

Jordan Barab, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, applauds the state of Illinois for its ongoing commitment to the safety and health of public employees as well as welcomes the state as OSHA’s newest state plan partner. Eligibility for initial approval as a public employee-only state plan requires being able to operate an occupational safety and health program that is at least as effective as the federal program.

Here are some details of the Illinois plan:

  • To be administered by the Illinois Department of Labor, Safety Inspection and Education division
  • Program will cover more than 1 million public workers (including 161,200 state government workers and 690,000 municipal workers, along with workers in the public education sector)
  • The state will adopt and enforce standards identical to most federal OSHA safety and health standards
  • The state plan’s commitment is to bring its standards in line with OSHA requirements, as well as to adopt future OSHA standards and revisions
  • Federal OSHA will fund up to 50 percent of the program’s operating costs (a $1.5 million grant for the $3 million Illinois Public Employee Only program was awarded by the federal OSHA to the state)

Though Illinois has provided protection to its public employees for a time now, this new plan will seek to meet the additional requirements of the federal OSHA program. Private sector employees, on the other hand, will remain under the jurisdiction of federal OSHA. Through these joint efforts and corporate endeavors, safety and health in the public sector workplace will be encouraged and upheld.

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