TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s COVID-19 special legislative session is already underway, and one of the big ticket items of the weeklong process is a push to have a state-run version of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and get out from under the wing of the federal safety agency.
Currently, Florida is under federal OSHA jurisdiction, but state and local government workers are not covered by federal OSHA, according to the agency.
Separating from OSHA for state-led safety
The legislative pieces were written in response to state pushback on the latest federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates promoted by the administration of President Joe Biden, and enacted by OSHA as an emergency rule affecting businesses with 100 or more employees.
While the state legislature seems poised to pass the state plan law, the name for a state-run OSHA alternative, implementation itself is a longer, more complicated process.
Right now there are 22 states and territories, counting Puerto Rico, that have their own state plan for workplace safety in both private businesses and government workplaces.
Five others have state plans that specifically cover state and local government workers only.
The rest of the United States are what are called federal OSHA states, meaning they follow all of the federal guidelines set by the agency.
So what’s needed to make a Florida-run OSHA alternative?
Florida’s Occupational Safety and Health State Plan
The Florida state plan is the first step in the OSHA separation process.
In the wording of the proposed legislation, should the bills pass, the Executive Office of the Governor, Ron DeSantis currently, must create a proposal to create a state occupational safety and health issues agency. That agency would govern the relevant issues for both state and local government workers, and private business employees.
Under the law, should it pass, the EOG would hire or select appropriate staff to create the proposal and submit it for review to the President of the Florida Senate and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives by Jan. 17, 2022.
The legislation says the proposal must include at minimum the following details:
- Timelines for the completion of the proposal and for the completion of the state plan
- Legislation necessary to implement the state plan
- Scope of coverage to employees covered or excluded from the state plan
- Explanation of whether additional employees, consultants, or contractors must be hired to develop the proposal
- Whether or not additional funds are needed to develop the proposal
A nonrecurring $1 million is earmarked in the legislation to fund the development of the proposal.
Should the legislation pass, the governor’s office would have about two months to create and submit the proposed state plan for consideration by Florida’s legislative leadership.
Once the plan is approved by state leaders, it needs to meet federal requirements and find funding for implementation. Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-FL10) told Capitol News Services the actual cost of a statewide OSHA replacement could be between $20 to $25 million.
Federal approval needed for next steps
If Florida gets its wish and passes the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan bill, developing the plan for submission to state leadership is only part of the process to move forward.
Assuming the Senate President and Speaker of the House approve the proposal for a Florida Occupational Safety and Health State Plan, next the state would have to pass through an approval process with OSHA itself. In order to receive OSHA approval, the state’s safety agency and guidelines must meet certain standards.
Additionally, when the state submits its plans to OSHA for approval, it must make sure it follows the policies and procedures outlined by OSHA, and must be able to conform to the necessary criteria within three years of its start date.
Even if it’s approved and meets federal requirements, Florida would have to be open to yearly assessments from OSHA for continued certification, part of the Federal Annual Monitoring Evaluation, which is an annual report.
The special session is scheduled to go through Friday, Nov. 19, but some are expecting a vote on the bills proposed for the COVID-19-focused gathering to come as early as Wednesday.