Industrial Safety

American Society of Safety Engineers supports Illinois' plant to protect public workers


Sep 04, 2009

In a comment to Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Jordan Barab for the record of a proposed rule to approve a Public Employee Only State Plan for Illinois, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) communicated its support for granting approval and for Illinois’ intent to establish the plan.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) does not require occupational safety and health coverage of public sector workers in states that do not have federally approved occupational safety and health state plans. Currently, 21 states and Puerto Rico have federally approved state plans under which employees of the state and its political subdivisions are required to cover public sector employees. Three more states — Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, along with the Virgin Islands — have state plans that apply only to their public sector workers. Illinois would be the fourth such state. If the Illinois plan is approved, the public sector employees in 25 states and the District of Columbia will remain without federal-level occupational safety and health protections.

Achieving occupational safety and health protections for all public sector workers has long been a goal of ASSE. ASSE has supported federal legislation to remove this loophole in the OSH Act, a provision included the Protecting America’s Workers Act now in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In the last several years, ASSE’s members in Florida have achieved some success in establishing through legislation a task force that determined Florida needs to provide such coverage, though a bill introduced this year through ASSE’s efforts to require Florida’s public sector employers to meet federal standards failed due to the state’s economic difficulties. Through those efforts in Florida, ASSE members have learned how difficult it is for a state to take the needed steps to protect its public sector workers even when, as employers throughout the private sectors have learned, such protections not only keep workers safe and healthy and but also help government better manage challenging costs associated with a workforce.

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