OSHA Basics: OSHA-Approved State Plans

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OSHA’s regulations cover employers in the 50 states plus a number of territories and jurisdictions (this includes but is not limited to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico).

Many of those states or territories are covered by what’s known as federal OSHA. However, 22-27 states and/or territories have OSHA-approved state plans instead of being covered by federal OSHA. We’ve given a range because it depends on how you count them, something we’ll explain more for you below.

We’ll explain the state OSHA plans a little more in this article, which is a continuation of our OSHA Basics series of articles.

Also, a quick head’s up–we’ve included a free downloadable guide to OSHA inspections for you at the bottom of this article.

Where Does the Power to Have a State Plan Come From?

So first things first, right? How is it that states have the ability to create their own state OSHA plan instead of following the federal OSHA rules?

Well, that power is granted in the OSH Act. To be more exact, in Section 18, State Jurisdictions and State Plans.

Here’s where that power is granted:

(b) Any State which, at any time, desires to assume responsibility for development and enforcement therein of occupational safety and health standards relating to any occupational safety or health issue with respect to which a Federal standard has been promulgated under section 6 shall submit a State plan for the development of such standards and their enforcement.

What Does It Mean that State Plans are OSHA-Approved?

Directly below the text we copied above, the OSH Act explains the criteria used to determine if the state plan application will be accepted. We’ve copied that for you below.

The Secretary shall approve the plan submitted by a State under subsection (b), or any modification thereof, if such plan in his judgement —

  • designates a State agency or agencies as the agency or agencies responsible for administering the plan throughout the State,

  • provides for the development and enforcement of safety and health standards relating to one or more safety or health issues, which standards (and the enforcement of which standards) are or will be at least as effective in providing safe and healthful employment and places of employment as the standards promulgated under section 6 which relate to the same issues, and which standards, when applicable to products which are distributed or used in interstate commerce, are required by compelling local conditions and do not unduly burden interstate commerce,

  • provides for a right of entry and inspection of all workplaces subject to the Act which is at least as effective as that provided in section 8, and includes a prohibition on advance notice of inspections,

  • contains satisfactory assurances that such agency or agencies have or will have the legal authority and qualified personnel necessary for the enforcement of such standards,

  • gives satisfactory assurances that such State will devote adequate funds to the administration and enforcement of such standards,

  • contains satisfactory assurances that such State will, to the extent permitted by its law, establish and maintain an effective and comprehensive occupational safety and health program applicable to all employees of public agencies of the State and its political subdivisions, which program is as effective as the standards contained in an approved plan,

  • requires employers in the State to make reports to the Secretary in the same manner and to the same extent as if the plan were not in effect, and

  • provides that the State agency will make such reports to the Secretary in such form and containing such information, as the Secretary shall from time to time require.


Do State Plans Have to Be The Same as the Federal OSHA Plan?

Nope. The state plan can create its own rules/regulations, and those can be different than the ones in the federal OSHA plan. However, read the next section below….

Do State OSHA Plans Have to Be as Effective as the Federal OSHA Plan?

Short answer–yes. This was answered in the large section of text from the OSH Act that we copied immediately above, but we’ll copy the relevant section again for you here:

provides for the development and enforcement of safety and health standards relating to one or more safety or health issues, which standards (and the enforcement of which standards) are or will be at least as effective in providing safe and healthful employment and places of employment as the standards promulgated under section 6 which relate to the same issues, and which standards, when applicable to products which are distributed or used in interstate commerce, are required by compelling local conditions and do not unduly burden interstate commerce,

In particular, take note of the bolded font above and the words “at least as effective.”

Where Can I Contact My OSHA-Approved State Plan?

This OSHA website has a nice clickable map graphic that leads you to the contact information for all of the OSHA state plans.

Which States, Territories & Jurisdictions Have OSHA-Approved Plans?

We’re going to answer this in two different lists (and this is when we said “22-29, depending on how you count” earlier).

The distinction between the two lists is that there are 22 plans that cover private workers in the state as well as state and local government workers in the state, and in addition there are 6 plans that cover only state and local government workers (but not private workers).

State Plans that Cover Private Workers PLUS State & Local Government Workers

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

State Plans that Cover Only State & Local Government Workers (not Private Workers)

  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Virgin Islands

Where Can I Learn More about OSHA-Approved State Plans?

Here’s a good starting point.


Conclusion: OSHA-Approved State Plans

We hope this introduction to the idea of OSHA-Approved State Plans shed a little additional light on the topic for you.

If you’d like to learn more about basic OSHA concepts like this one, check out some of our other OSHA Basics articles.

And speaking of OSHA, why not download our free GUIDE TO OSHA INSPECTIONS, below? 

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Free Download–Guide to OSHA Inspections

Download this free guide to OSHA workplace inspections.

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 25 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center and an Instructional Design certification from the Association of Talent Development (ATD), and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI/ASSP Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training. Jeff frequently writes for magazines related to safety, safety training, and training and frequently speaks at conferences on the same issues, including the Washington Governor's Safety and Health Conference, the Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference, the Wisconsin Safety Conference, the MSHA Training Resources Applied to Mining (TRAM) Conference, and others.

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