The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), in a comment to Acting OSHA chief Jordan Barab, voiced its support of OSHA’s proposed rule to approve a Public Employee Only State Plan for Illinois, according to an ASSE press release.

“On behalf of the 32,000 ASSE occupational safety, health and environmental professional members, including nearly 1400 members in Illinois, ASSE supports both the State of Illinois for its intent to establish an Illinois Public Employee Only State Plan and OSHA for taking steps to see that this plan is approved so that Illinois and its political subdivisions begin protecting their workers in ways that meet federal safety and health standards,” ASSE President C. Christopher Patton, CSP, said. “As an organization committed to protecting people, property and the environment, we are pleased to see the state of Illinois step up to the plate and work to make sure that all workers are provided with workplace safety protections.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) does not require occupational safety and health coverage of public sector workers in states that do not have federally approved occupational safety and health state plans. Currently, 21 states and Puerto Rico have federally approved state plans under which employees of the state and its political subdivisions are required to cover public sector employees. Three more states — Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, along with the Virgin Islands — have state plans that apply only to their public sector workers. Illinois would be the fourth such state. If the Illinois plan is approved, the public sector employees in 25 states and the District of Columbia will remain without federal-level occupational safety and health protections.

Achieving occupational safety and health protections for all public sector workers has long been a goal of ASSE. ASSE has supported federal legislation to remove this loophole in the OSH Act, a provision included the Protecting America’s Workers Act now in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In the last several years, ASSE’s members in Florida have achieved some success in establishing through legislation a task force that determined Florida needs to provide such coverage, though a bill introduced this year through ASSE’s efforts to require Florida’s public sector employers to meet federal standards failed due to the state’s economic difficulties. Through those efforts in Florida, ASSE members have learned how difficult it is for a state to take the needed steps to protect its public sector workers even when, as employers throughout the private sectors have learned, such protections not only keep workers safe and healthy and but also help government better manage challenging costs associated with a workforce.

“This state plan is not only good for Illinois’ public sector workers. It is also good for Illinois taxpayers,” Patton said. “We look forward to seeing all public sector workers protected under federal standards and urge OSHA to do whatever it can to encourage other non-State Plan states to follow Illinois’ example by working with the established State Plans to share their successes in helping public and private sector employer protect their workers and better manage workforce costs. ASSE and its members look forward to helping OSHA and other states move forward on providing coverage for all.”