• Kimberly Julian

OSHA versus State Plans: Does it Matter?

By Kimberly Julian, October 18, 2020

In the workforce, it’s common knowledge that OSHA sets the rules and regulations for safety in the workplace, wherever that workplace may be. They are the make all, be all ruler of rules… follow or else.

But are they the final rule and regulation maker in all cases?

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed by Congress in 1970 through the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It was created to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all working people by setting and enforcing certain standards, and by providing the needed training, outreach, education and assistance (requiring the employer too, that is). They cover most private sector employers and employees, as well as some public sectors.

OSHA is the highest level of regulation meaning that it’s a federal level of standards, all states must follow this level of guideline at a minimum.

Some states have declared that OSHA is a great guideline for the minimum, but the guidelines could be better when it comes to keeping employees safe. Those states created their own independent State Plans.

State Plans may actually be stricter than OSHA’s guidelines and will differ from OSHA standards. State Plans must be at least as effective as OSHA in protecting and preventing work-related injuries and deaths.

There are actually twenty-two State Plans.

When it comes to the telecommunications industry, there are three states that have their own telecommunication specific safety and health regulations that govern your work: North Carolina, Michigan and Washington.

So, when working in North Carolina, Michigan or Washington, whose regulations do you follow, theirs or OSHA? In a nutshell – both. The State Plan is followed first, and if the content doesn’t contain a certain something, look to OSHA. But not the other way around.

Why? Because as it is in the definition, State Plans may be stricter than OSHA.

Why do I need to know this?

For most employers, the answer is easy. The pocketbook. Don’t follow the stricter state regulations and pay the price; they’re known as fines and they can get steep. But beyond the financial impact, there’s the aspect that the infraction becomes part of your on-line, accessible record for future clients to view.

For employees, the answer could be – don’t follow and get your employer fined and yourself fired. The other thought? If you’re in a State Plan state and get injured, you may be eligible for additional financial support if available and only if your employer pays into the Plan as required by law.

It matters. It matters to your employer, your employees and their families.

Be safe. Be smart. Be in the know.


· The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity


· MIOSHA Telecommunications



· MIOSHA Cranes and Derricks


North Carolina

· North Carolina Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health


· Communication Tower Standards


· Subchapter 07F – Standards Section .0100 – General Industry Standards



· Washington State Department of Labor and Industries


· Safety Standards for Telecommunications


· Communication Towers


· Order a “Little Red Book” for free


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