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September 23, 2013
Hawaii begins process of taking over OSHA enforcement

Federal OSHA says it will return some control of Hawaii’s OSHA program to state officials. The decision comes about a year after the feds stepped in to assist the state plan in regulating Hawaii’s manufacturing employers.

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What changed and what will it mean for employers? Keep reading to find out.

Under an agreement that took effect last September, OSHA and the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division (HIOSH) have shared employee protection responsibility. The goal, according to the state, was “to jointly rebuild and strengthen the safety and health regulatory environment in Hawaii.”

The agreement suspended the state’s enforcement authority in specific industries until HIOSH could demonstrate that its enforcement was “at least as effective” as that of federal OSHA. The feds point to improvements in staffing and other areas as indications that the state program is rebuilding its regulatory capacity. The plan is to start with manufacturing, then progressively return responsibility for other sectors to the state over a three-year period.

What happened in Hawaii that brought federal OSHA in?

In 2009, 32 of 51 HIOSH positions were eliminated. But half of those lost positions were considered essential to meet OSHA staffing requirements. Also in fiscal year 2009, HIOSH completed only 426 inspections—half of its stated goal. An OSHA report identified a number of concerns about Hawaii’s programs, including failure to properly classify violations or cite hazards. Beginning in 2010, the state began to recruit for the lost positions to ensure that federal OSHA staffing requirements were met.

Governor Neil Abercrombie said restoring HIOSH jurisdiction has been one of his top priorities since taking office in 2010.

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