Updated (3/17/10)

Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) introduced the “Ensuring Worker Safety Act” designed to ensure that the federally-(partially)-funded State agencies that run their own OSH programs are at least as effective as federal standards enforcement.  The text of the bill is not yet available on Thomas, but in Cong. Titus’ statement she offers at least one of her objectives in seeking the legislative change:

“giving OSHA additional options when a state plan is found to be underperforming.  Unfortunately under current law, federal OSHA is left with only two options, both at the extreme end of the spectrum, when it finds state plans that are ineffective.  This legislation provides OSHA with an important middle ground so it is not left with the choice of doing nothing or the drastic step of terminating a state plan. ”

In Cong. Titus’ statement she explains in plain language the current take-it or leave-it options for addressing State Plan programs with serious deficiencies.

“If OSHA determines that an approved state plan is not ‘at least as effective as’ federal standards and enforcement, its only recourse to compel changes to an underperforming program is to terminate the state plan, a drastic step that would remove state control, leave state and local government employees unprotected, and add costs to DOL for funding and running a health and safety program in the state.”

“…the Ensuring Worker Safety Act establishes a formal mechanism for OSHA to identify a problem with a state plan and compel a remedy without beginning the process for withdrawing approval.  It also ensures the continued application of health and safety regulations by providing OSHA with concurrent enforcement authority while a state plan is remedying deficiencies.  Finally, the bill holds federal OSHA accountable for providing strong oversight and guidance to state plans by establishing a regular Government Accountability Office study – one every five years – to look at the effectiveness of state plans and the Secretary of Labor’s oversight of such plans.”

I am encouraged, actually thrilled, to see first-term Member of Congress Dina Titus (who is a former university professor) embrace worker health and safety protections as a signature issue.    Too few do and we’re glad she has.

Update 3/17/2010: Cong. Titus’ bill is H.R. 4864 and is available here on THOMAS.