Effort to replace OSHA in Kansas unlikely to advance, chairwoman says

The idea of having the state of Kansas take over administration of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act is unlikely to gain traction this year, largely because of the cost and the state’s current budget crisis, the chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee said Tuesday.

“Because of the other priorities we have right now, it’s probably lower on the list,” said Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe.

Last year, lawmakers passed a bill directing the secretary of labor to study the feasibility of adopting a state OSHA plan that would develop workplace safety regulations that would be at least as effective as the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The bill passed on nearly a straight party-line vote.

Labor Secretary Lana Gordon released that report late last week. It showed the cost of setting up a state program would be about $3.2 million in the first year and nearly $3 million a year after that to administer it.

The federal law encourages states to set up their own state plans, and the federal government will pay up to half of an approved plan’s operating costs. But only 26 have done so since the federal program began in 1970.

Lynn said that in the business community, where OSHA is often seen as an overly burdensome federal agency, there is plenty of interest in setting up an alternative program at the state level.

“They’re not connected with the business communities,” Lynn said. “They’re adversaries, essentially.”

According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Kansas ranks 23rd out of 44 states that report workplace death and injury statistics.

In 2013, there were 3.7 work-related illnesses and injuries per 100 full-time employees, and there were 54 work-related deaths.