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Is your facility located in California, Minnesota, South Carolina, or other state-plan states or territories? State-plan state enforcement counts for fiscal year (FY) 2021 are finally in, showing a 3 percent drop in inspections (from 32,062 to 31,063), but a 6 percent hike in total penalties ($98.9M to $104.8M).

These fluctuations may be explained by the pandemic and the increase in maximum penalty amounts. However, these latest figures are still behind the ones for FY 2019 (42,028 inspections and $123M). Where serious penalties were issued, penalty rates climbed 11 percent in FY 2021, to $2,749 on average per violation.

Inspection types

Despite COVID-19, the state agencies focused most inspections on “safety” (with 71 percent), rather than “health.” Just over 36 percent of inspections were programmed in FY 2021, a huge uptick from 4 percent in FY 2020, but still down from the 45 percent in FY 2019. Another 39 percent of inspections went to worker complaints and referrals from other agencies in FY 2021.

Citation types

Employers were cited in 63 percent of state inspections, with an average of 1.71 serious, willful, or repeat violations, and 1.21 other-than-serious violations per inspection. Employers contested citations in 11 percent of inspections, a decline from 20 percent in FY 2020.

What are state-plan states?

State-plan states may cover either private and public employer sectors in a state or only the public sector. Where a state covers the public sector only, federal OSHA covers the private sector. The state-plan states are broken down as follows:

  • State-plan states covering private and public employer sectors — Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
  • State-plan states covering public employer sectors only — Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Virgin Islands.

It should be noted that federal OSHA has recently proposed to approve a work safety and health plan for Massachusetts state/local employers and their workers. On the flip side, the agency has proposed to reconsider or revoke its approval of Arizona’s state plan.

More information

For more information, see the Occupational Safety & Health State Plan Association (OSHSPA) report, entitled, “OSHSPA Report 2021: Grassroots Worker Protection: State Plan Activities of the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association.” OSHSPA issues the Grassroots report annually.

Key to remember

States handle workplace safety enforcement in state-plan states. COVID-19 and increases in maximum penalty amounts may explain the fluctuations in inspection figures. While overall inspections fell slightly, total penalties are climbing.