Updated below (1/15/2010)

“Is the state agency charged with enforcing job safety failing to do its job?”

is the question posed by KCET’s (Los Angeles) SoCal Connected in a special investigation airing on Thursday, January 14.   The full program will be posted on the station’s website following the broadcast.  Click here for a sneak preview.  I suspect the progam will resurrect questions about the effectiveness of federal OSHA’s oversight of the OSHA State Plans.  These State-run programs provide H&S protection to 40% of the nation’s workforce. 

During last October’s congressional hearing about the Nevada OSHA program, acting OSHA chief Jordan Barab testified that federal OSHA would:

“…conduct Baseline Special Evaluation Studies for every state that administers its own program.” 

It was troubling to read OSHA’s review of NV-OSHA** and think that other State Plans could possibly be in similar disarray.  Hopefully that’s not the case, and it was refreshing to hear federal OSHAs renew its commitment to make sure that NV’s deficiencies, lapses, management failures, etc are not being repeated elsewhere.  

Re-reading the testimony from the Oct 2009 congressional hearing, I identified two objective for these special evaluations.  First, as the acting asst. secretary noted, “to ensure that deficiencies similar to those found in Nevada do not exist in any of the other State Plans.”  Second, to identify better metrics and methods for evaluating the performance and effectiveness of the 27 State/territory-based programs.    The OSHA chief described a couple of steps for meeting these objectives, but wasn’t specific about deadlines.  

He indicated, for example, that the special evaluations of each State Plan would be incorporated into the regular “Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation” (FAME) report:

“….the baseline studies that the Regions will be conducting will be included in the FY 2009 ‘Enhanced’ FAME reports.”

These FAME reports don’t seem to be on OSHA’s webpage so I don’t know when they are typically completed.  With the federal government’s fiscal year ending on September 30, perhaps these reports are finished 3-6 months later.  Not too many weeks from now.

The acting OSHA chief also promised that the information gleened from the special evaluations would trigger

“an overall review of our current oversight policies….involv[ing] the states in the development of the revised monitoring procedures or changes in performance measures.”

Again, he wasn’t specific about when this overall review would begin and end, but with SoCal Connected’s feature tomorrow night about Cal/OSHA, the performance of OSHA State Plans will remain a prominent issue for federal OSHA leadership.  As it should be.  

**Note: the latest from NV-OSHA in response to the federal OSHA’s review.

Updated (1/15/2010): The title of the 28-minute presentation is “Protected or Neglected: Worker Safety.”  KCET So