(800) 645-3475 questions@nilfisk.com

Federal vs State OSHA: What You Need to Know for Compliance

Posted on August 23, 2017

We often talk about OSHA as if it’s just one organization with one set of regulations. But, that’s not true. In addition to the federal OSHA, many states have their own health and safety plans that employers must comply with or risk being subject to penalties. This article explains what OSHA state plans are and who needs to comply with them.

What are OSHA state plans?

OSHA standards apply in all states. However, some states administer their own health and safety programs. These programs must be approved by OSHA and determined to be at least as effective as the federal program. States that administer their own plans are required to provide safety and health training and education programs, conduct inspections, and enforce the standards.

Which states have them?

Currently, 28 states or territories have OSHA-approved state plans. Click the state name in the tables below to view a high-level summary of the state plans.

OSHA-approved state plans that cover private, as well as state and local government, workers


OSHA-approved state plans that cover state and local government workers only

How do state plans compare to federal OSHA?

Some OSHA state plans (Connecticut, Indiana, and Virgin Islands) are exactly like federal OSHA. They’re just enforced at the state level. But most states with state plans have developed their own regulations for at least some hazards. In general, these standards are stricter than federal OSHA or apply to areas that federal OSHA doesn’t cover.

For example, California OSHA, aka Cal/OSHA, requires greater levels of protection than federal OSHA in several areas, including the following:

  • Permissible exposure limits (PELs) for acetone, aniline, and manganese
  • Control of employee exposure to concrete and masonry dust (including silica)
  • Confined spaces
  • Process safety management

Cal/OSHA also has requirements that federal OSHA doesn’t, such as an injury and illness prevention program (IIPP) and a heat illness prevention program. Click here for a fact sheet that provides a full comparison of Cal/OSHA and federal OSHA.

Many states have also adopted stricter industry-specific standards, frequently for construction. For example, Oregon and Washington both have their own standards for abrasive blasting.

What about fines and penalties?

The procedures for issuing fines and penalties under a state plan are similar to those under federal OSHA. However, states can impose higher fines. Many states that have stricter-than-federal standards also have greater-than-federal penalties for violating those standards.

The bottom line on compliance

If you live in a state covered by a state plan, you must comply with the state-level standards. Federal compliance will not be enough to prevent fines and penalties.


In a complicated regulatory environment, knowledge is your greatest asset! Stay tuned for more articles about federal, state, and local laws governing worker safety. To receive this content directly in your inbox, sign up for our monthly newsletter by entering your email on the sidebar of this page.