Massachusetts State and Local Government Workers Achieve Workplace Safety Breakthrough

August 18, 2022

On August 17, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration granted Massachusetts initial approval to enable Massachusetts’s safety and health plan to be responsible for protecting state and local government workers with safety standards that meet or exceed OSHA standards for private sector workers. The Massachusetts State and Local Government Only State Plan will cover more than 430,000 employees of the state and its political subdivisions under an OSHA-approved plan. The plan takes effect on Aug. 18, 2022.

In 2019, after over a decade of advocacy, MassCOSH and its labor allies secured the expansion of OSHA protections to Massachusetts State and Municipal workers when the Act to Further Define Standards of Employee Safety went into effect. The law required that the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (DLS) work with OSHA to obtain approval for a Public Sector Only State Plan for occupational safety and health for State and Municipal workers. DLS submitted a final draft of said plan to OSHA earlier this summer.

OSHA approves and monitors all State Plans such as the one Massachusetts will soon implement and provides as much as 50 percent of the funding for each state’s program. Massachusetts joins Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and the Virgin Islands as one of seven states and territories where the administrators of state safety and health programs are committed to maintaining programs at least as effective as federal OSHA to protect state and local government workers. In addition, the 22 states and territories with full state plans also cover state and local government workers in their states. Currently, 23 states still do not provide federally approved workplace safety and health protections for their public employees.

OSHA approved the plan based on its preliminary review that the plan meets OSHA's State Plan approval criteria and that DLS has provided adequate assurances that the plan will be at least as effective as Federal OSHA in protecting the safety and health of Massachusetts State and Municipal workers. OSHA is also proposing to fund the initial approval of the Massachusetts State Plan from the U.S. Department of Labor's Fiscal Year 2022 budget, saving the Commonwealth $1,250,000 in its efforts to preserve State and Municipal workers’ health.

This plan is a huge step forward in ensuring that Massachusetts has the strongest State Plan possible and that State and Municipal workers get the full protections OSHA affords.

“Massachusetts’ new state plan is a milestone for its public employees and the state’s development of its occupational safety and health program,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “We commend them for their ongoing commitment to the well-being of government workers who provide vital services to make the state of Massachusetts livable and enjoyable.”

“We at MassCOSH are very happy to see additional protections for public sector workers here in our state,” said MassCOSH Director of Policy and Programs Al Vega. “We know that health and safety can sometimes take a back seat and that workers sometimes feel like they have no voice when it comes to protecting themselves from workplace injuries and illnesses. By joining other states who already have these laws in place, we know Massachusetts workers will be 100% safer when working for state and municipal agencies now that OSHA and the Commonwealth have extended safety protections that private sector employees already have.”