Agreement Restoring HIOSH's Enforcement Role

Signed Sept. 21 by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie and OSHA Regional Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha, the pact includes benchmarks for the state agency, including increasing state inspections.

A new, three-year agreement confirms the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division (HIOSH) will meet federal standards for staffing its enforcement efforts and will steadily increase the number of safety and health inspections it conducts. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie and OSHA Regional Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha signed the agreement Sept. 21.

"Let's not forget that safety is also good economics," Abercrombie said. "When injuries and deaths are prevented, workers' compensation costs and additional training costs for new employees go down for employers."

Abercrombie's news release said HIOSH's enforcement capacity was eroded when former Gov. Lisa Lingle's administration eliminated 32 of 51 HIOSH positions during a 2009 reduction-in-force process, and as a result HIOSH completed 426 inspections toward its goal of 835 inspections in FY2009 (a 51 percent completion rate). "We reached out proactively to OSHA to identify a solution toward restoring these important enforcement positions, and the progress we have made since 2010 was reassuring to our federal counterparts and demonstrated that Hawaii is serious about workplace health and safety," Abercrombie said. "Since I took office, my administration has achieved the minimum staffing required by OSHA."

(Whether there is a political motive behind the announcement's timing is debatable; Lingle, a Republican, is in a race for an open U.S. Senate seat against Democrat Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii congresswoman who serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The seat is being vacated by Sen. Daniel Akaka, a Democrat, who is retiring.)

The agreement calls for HIOSH to maintain nine safety and nine health inspectors, three managerial positions, and four consultation and training staff positions. It will enforce health and safety laws for construction, transportation, and warehousing and maintain responsibility for state and local governments, including public-sector maritime activities. During FY2013, HIOSH will resume authority over manufacturing, except for refineries, and it will resume will resume responsibility for accommodations/food service by the end of FY2014 and have responsibility for the remainder of general industry by FY2015. Federal OSHA retains regulatory responsibility over private maritime, federal employees, postal operations, and workers and contractors where the land is under exclusive federal jurisdiction (e.g., national parks and military bases).

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