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SECRETARY MARTIN GIVES NORTH CAROLINA 90 DAYS TO IMPROVE STATE JOB SAFETY AND HEALTH PROGRAM

 SECRETARY MARTIN GIVES NORTH CAROLINA 90 DAYS TO IMPROVE
 STATE JOB SAFETY AND HEALTH PROGRAM
 ATLANTA, Jan. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin today announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has informed North Carolina Labor Commissioner John C. Brooks that he has 90 days to make corrections or to show "significant improvement" in seven major parts of the state's job safety and health program.
 Secretary Martin said that if the state doesn't make the needed improvements, OSHA will have no choice but to begin action to withdraw approval of the state's program and ultimately resume federal jurisdiction.
 "I want to go on the record as fully supporting the concept of state programs for worker safety and health," Secretary Martin said. "Such programs provide a great amount of local flexibility and the opportunity for a considerable amount of innovation in protecting rth Carolina program is
structurally te to operate a program that is below standard."
 The letter informing Commissioner Brooks of Martin's decision was sent by Gerard F. Scannell, OSHA administrator. It was accompanied by a detailed report of deficiencies prepared by OSHA staff over the past several months.
 The report notes that the North Carolina program is structurally
te to operate a program that is below standard."
 The letter informing Commissioner Brooks o


f
Martin's decision was sent by Gerard F. Scannell, OSHA administrator
. It was accompanied by a detailed report of deficiencies prepared by
 OSHA staff over the past several months.
 The report notes that the No
 -- Staffing. Action must be taken to hire, train and retain qualified safety and health inspectors, at least to the level funded by federal OSHA in the state's grant money; these staff must not be diverted to perform pre-occupancy inspections of migrant labor camps.
 -- Reports and Information. The state must provide information requested and cooperate with monitors without condition and must submit all past due changes and update its plan to reflect current program operations.
 -- Financial management. The state must improve its financial management practices and better use federal funds.
 -- Program direction. The state must resume a reasonable level of planned inspection activity by revising procedures and management of resouces and priorities to solve program deficiencies in conducting inspections.
 -- Violation classification. The state must re-evaluate its procedures and practices for classifying violations which should result in a higher percentage of serious violations.
 -- Discrimination. The state must address staffing and procedural problems so that it can resume responsibility for handling discrimination complaints.
 The report was prepared by OSHA in response to Secretary Martin's direction following the tragic Imperial Food Products poultry plant fire in Hamlet, N.C., last Sept. 3 in which 25 workers died. The secretary also promised the report to the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee by Jan. 10.
 On Oct. 24, 1991, federal OSHA began a joint enforcement program with the state. Under that program OSHA responds directly to workplace complaints in the state and to other referrals brought to OSHA's attention. OSHA also is responding to complaints lodged with Gov. Martin's emergency hotline and is handling all backlogged and new allegations of discrimination against workers who have filed safety and health complaints.
 The secretary also explained that OSHA will provide an additional 60 days for public comment on a petition filed by the AFL-CIO seeking withdrawal of OSHA's approval of the North Carolina safety and health program. An earlier comment period on the petition ended on Dec. 30, 1991; that period produced 162 responses, all but 10 of which supported continuance of the state program.
 The added 60 days will provide sufficient time for interested persons and groups to review the OSHA report and submit additional comment for the public record. OSHA will publish an extension notice in the Federal Register shortly.
 Secretary Martin noted by the end of January OSHA will complete reports similar to the North Carolina one on the operations of the other 22 comprehensive state safety and health programs.
 The 22 states and territories other than North Carolina that operated OSHA-approved state job safety and health programs are Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Virgin Islands, Washington and Wyoming. Two other states, Connecticut and New York, that operate state job safety and health programs only for public employees, are not being evaluated by OSHA for the upcoming special report.
 NOTE: Fact sheet follows.
 FACT SHEET
 -- Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 encourages states to develop their own programs for worker safety and health that are "at least as effective as" the federal program.
 -- State programs approved by federal OSHA are funded 50 percent by federal OSHA grant monies -- the state pays the balance.
 -- OSHA has the responsiblity to monitor states' programs to ensure they continue to be effective.
 CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
 -- Jan. 26, 1973 -- North Carolina state plan received initial approval.
 -- Feb. 18, 1975 -- Operational status agreement was signed, suspending exercise of concurrent federal jurisdiction.
 -- Oct. 5, 1976 -- Plan was certified as having completed all developmental steps.
 -- Sept. 3, 1991 -- Fire at Imperial Food Products in Hamlet, N.C., which resulted in 25 fatalities.
 -- Sept. 11, 1991 -- AFL-CIO filed petition for withdrawal of approval of North Carolina state plan.
 -- Sept. 30, 1991 -- Notice of petition and 90 day public comment period published in the Federal Register.
 -- Oct. 24, 1991 -- Operational status agreement was unilaterally revoked and limited federal concurrent jurisdiction was resumed.
 -- Dec. 30, 1991 -- Public comment period ended on petition for withdrawal; 162 comments received, of which 10 support plan withdrawal.
 -- Jan. 7, 1992 -- Sent a copy of the report by overnight mail to the state.
 -- Jan. 8, 1992 -- Issued report on the operation of North Carolina state job safety and health program.
 -- Jan. 31, 1992 -- Reports on 22 other state programs due from OSHA to Secretary Martin.
 -- March 15, 1992 (approx.) -- New deadline for submission of public comments on AFL-CIO petition for withdrawal of approval of North Carolina plan.
 -- April 8, 1992 -- Deadline for demonstration of improvement of noted deficiencies.
 HIGHLIGHTS OF DEFICIENCIES


1. Standards. North Carolina has an efficient and effective procedure for issuing standards, but through administrative oversight has in the past failed to adopt new federal standards within the required six-month period. Significant improvement recently -- especially with the recent adoption of a standard on bloodborne pathogens within one month of the federal rule. The state must continue to adopt standards timely. 2. Staffing. The state has had a high vacancy rate and many performance deficiencies can be attributed to lack of on-board staff. Additional safety inspectors have been hired since October and training arranged for them. The state must hire, train and retain qualified safety and health inspectors and must not divert them to other functions outside the scope of the state plan (migrant labor camp pre-occupancy inspections). 3. Reports and Information. The state must submit all delinquent information on its program and must provide all reports and information needed for monitoring the operation of the state plan, without condition. 4. Financial Management. The state generally conforms with accepted funding practices but as a result of unfilled inspector positions has returned significant amounts of federal funds over the past few years. The state must improve its ability to maintain approved staffing levels, use available financial flexibility in expending funds, and follow all grant regulations and requirements. 5. Enforcement program and procedures: The report documents performance deficiencies in the numbers of programmed inspections directed at high hazard establishments and in construction; these numbers are affected by:
 -- backlog and resulting untimely response to workplace complaints and referrals;
 -- high numbers of and perhaps inappropriate follow-up inspections;
 -- diversion of significant resources to pre-occupancy migrant labor camp inspections;
 -- inadequate on-board resources -- did not maintain federally funded staff as well as additional 100 percent state funded positions. 6. Identifying and classifying hazards. A low percent of serious violations appears to be affected by considering the probability of an accident occurring as a violation classification factor rather than as a penalty calculation factor; this results in differing classification of violations than the federal system. It also appears that willful violations are not sustained when contested due to inadequate documentation. The state must re-evaluate and revise its procedures and practices related to classifying violations. 7. Discrimination. North Carolina does not assign dedicated staff to conduct investigations of employee allegations of employer discrimination and assigns inspections a higher priority than conduct of discrimination investigations. The state must review its discrimination staffing and procedures to demonstrate that appropriate and timely response can be made to such complaints.
 -0- 1/8/92
 /CONTACT: Doug Fuller of the United States Department of Labor, 202-523-6027 (office) or 703-548-4542 (after hours)/ CO: United States Department of Labor; Occupational Safety and Health
 Administration; North Carolina Department of Labor ST: North Carolina IN: SU: EXE


BN-BR -- AT003 -- 7782 01/08/92 12:22 EST
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