OSHA’s jurisdiction doesn’t extend to the public sector, but that doesn’t mean the agency is neglecting the safety and health of state and local government employees. On September 26, OSHA announced the launch of a new certificate program for public sector employees titled Public Sector Safety and Health Fundamentals.
Aimed at training public sector employees on occupational safety and health to reduce injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among workers in state and local governments, the program allows students to choose from a variety of courses, including safety and health management, accident investigation, fall hazard awareness, and recordkeeping. To earn the certificate, which is available for both construction and general industry, students must complete a minimum of seven courses (three required courses and four or more electives) for a total of at least 68 hours of in-class training. The courses are available at OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers nationwide.
The new program is likely to fill a need, as public sector workers have historically experienced higher rates of work-related injuries and illnesses than their private sector counterparts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, state and local government workers experienced a nonfatal injury and illness rate of 5.7 cases per 100 full-time workers, significantly higher than the private industry rate of 3.3 cases per 100 full-time workers. Local government workers are at the highest risk: In 2011, nearly 4 out of 5 injuries and illnesses reported in the public sector occurred among local government workers. Workplace violence, falls, and contact with objects were among the top causes of work-related injuries among state and local government employees.
Although public sector employees are covered in the 25 states (plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) with state-run occupational safety and health agencies, state and local government workplaces in the remaining states are outside OSHA’s jurisdiction. In these states, federal OSHA enforces its rules and regulations in private sector workplaces only. Nevertheless, OSHA seeks to influence public sector workplaces through outreach and education initiatives, including the new certificate program, to ensure that all workers experience safe working conditions.
For more information about the Public Sector Safety and Health Fundamentals certificate program, refer to the Web page OSHA created for the initiative at https://www.osha.gov/dte/public_sector/index.html.