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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR TAKES PRELIMINARY ACTION FOR WITHDRAWAL OF APPROVAL OF NORTH CAROLINA STATE JOB SAFETY & HEALTH PROGRAM

 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR TAKES PRELIMINARY ACTION FOR WITHDRAWAL
 OF APPROVAL OF NORTH CAROLINA STATE JOB SAFETY & HEALTH PROGRAM
 ATLANTA, April 24 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Labor today took preliminary action for the withdrawal of federal approval of the North Carolina state job safety and health program.
 Notice of the action was contained in a letter from Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor Dorothy L. Strunk, administrator of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to John C. Brooks, North Carolina State Labor Commissioner, who directs that state's job safety and health program.
 Strunk, in her letter transmitted to Brooks today, said she regretted the need to initiate the action, but that the action was "required to assure adequate and complete safety and health protection for workers in the state of North Carolina."
 Today's action gives the state 45 days to show cause why a proceeding for withdrawal of federal approval should not be instituted. After review of the state's response, a decision will be made as to whether there are sufficient grounds for proceeding with formal plan withdrawal action.
 If withdrawal proceedings are initiated, OSHA then will publish a formal notice of proposed withdrawal in the Federal Register and the matter will be placed in the hands of an administrative law judge for a formal hearing and a decision.
 This latest action is based on the federal agency's review of the state's response to an evaluation of the effectiveness of the state program, which was issued last Jan. 8. When that eveluation was announced, the state was given 90 days to demonstrate significant improvement in both performance and cooperation in seven major program areas where federal OSHA found deficiences.
 An evaluation of the other 22 state job safety and health programs covering private industry also was ordered by Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin. The evaluations were ordered following the disastrous fire at the Imperial Food Products poultry processing plant in Hamlet, N.C., last Sept. 3, in which 25 workers died.
 Strunk, who received North Carolina's responses to federal OSHA's evaluation of the state's program within the established deadlines, said in her letter today that careful review of those reponses shows that although certain remedial actions have recently been undertaken, the North Carolina plan "remains a program which substantially fails to provide the full measure of job safety and health protection to which North Carolina workers are entitled under the law."
 Though some of the state's deficiencies have been addressed, "many others have been addressed only by assurances, without providing either concrete action resulting in demonstrable performance improvements or a firm timetable within which such actions may be expected," Strunk said.
 "Regarding still other deficiences, you have suggested that no corrective action will be possible until additional funding is made available to you," she added. "In some instances, you have declined to undertake any corrective action at all."
 Though a shortage of resources has been cited as the cause of many deficiences in the North Carolina program, "it is clear to me that appropriate use of the available staff and funds has not always been made," Strunk said.
 Strunk said that though the North Carolina program repeatedly assured OSHA and the public of its "intent to maintain a cooperative relationship," in practice, the opposite was true.
 "The refusal to permit federal officials to monitor the ongoing Imperial Foods Products investigation; the initial refusal to allow federal monitors access to state enforcement records; and your insistence that conversations between state enforcement staff and federal OSHA staff be recorded are just a few examples of the difficulty OSHA has encountered in monitoring safety and health operations by the North Carolina Department of Labor," she said.
 Other points made by Strunk were that North Carolina:
 -- Followed enforcement strategies "wasteful of recources" with, for example, the bulk of the enforcement workload devoted to complaint inspections and follow-up visits to work sites already inspected, leaving little time for unannounced general schedule inspections.
 -- Has cited "a lower percentage of hazards...as serious violations." Nearly two-thirds of the violations cited by the state involved non-serious violations.
 -- Showed "no concrete action or actual improvement in performance" on handling complaints of workers discriminated against for exercising their rights under the OSH Act despite promises for improvement. Due to this lack of activity, protecting workers against such illegal reprisals "remains virtually the exclusive responsibility of federal OSHA." (Federal OSHA, when it assumed concurrent jurisdiction of workplace rules with the state last Oct. 24 in response to a request for aid from Brooks, assumed exclusive enforcement authority over all discrimination complaints.)
 -- Despite additional funding made available by North Carolina Gov. James Martin for additional enforcment staff, "few, if any, of these additional staff are yet performing inspections independently of a supervisor, nor has OSHA been given any date by which these new staff are expected to be field-ready."
 -0- 4/24/92
 /EDITOR'S NOTE: The text of this release is available from the Department of Labor electronic bulletin board, Labor News. User costs are limited to a toll call. Labor News phone: 202-532-4784; 1200 or 2400 BAUD; parity: none; data bits equals 8; stop bit equals 1; voice phone: 202-523-7343.
 This information will be made available to sensory-impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: 202-523-8151, TDD phone: 800-326-2577./
 /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 ST: North Carolina IN: SU: EXE


EA-BN -- AT004 -- 2439 04/24/92 12:07 EDT
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