OSHA: What a Public Sector Employer Should Know

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In states that follow OSHA, public-sector employers are not subject to the provisions of this federal law. However, some political subdivisions in those states may choose to follow the Act’s requirements. For example, many fire departments in states that follow federal law (which exempts state government employers) still follow OSHA guidelines, even though the federal government has no jurisdiction to enforce those guidelines against the state or its counties, municipalities, and special districts.

OSHA has authorized 25 states—along with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands—to operate their own safety and health agencies. These are often referred to as state-plan states, and the programs are state-run but jointly funded by both the state and the federal governments. In order to be approved, state plans had to show that they were at least as effective as OSHA, and state-plan states had to enforce its regulations to public-sector employees. California chose to implement Cal-OSHA regulations, which are more stringent than federal requirements.

In four states (Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York), and the Virgin Islands, the plans only cover public-sector workers. In the remaining state-plan states, the state has jurisdiction over both public and private employers.

The jurisdictions that have established state plans are below. Link to the state where you have employees to determine the regulations you must follow:

Alaska Arizona California
Connecticut* Hawaii Illinois*
Indiana Iowa Kentucky
Maryland Michigan Minnesota
Nevada New Jersey* New Mexico
New York* North Carolina Oregon
Puerto Rico South Carolina Tennessee
Utah Vermont Virgin Islands*
Virginia Washington Wyoming


If you have questions about safety and health for your organization, let us know. We can help.