By Chris Ross
Alaska is one of 26 states (and several other territories) that have elected to have a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration-approved “state plan.” State-run safety and health programs must be at least as effective (and include all the same elements) as the federal OSHA program and may have additional regulations.
AKOSH State Plan
The Alaska State Plan, or AKOSH, covers all private-sector places of employment in the state, with the following exceptions:
The Alaska State Plan also covers state and local government workers. It does not apply to federal government employers. Federal OSHA covers the issues not covered by the state plan.
AKOSH has adopted all federal OSHA standards and incorporates them by reference. In addition, AKOSH has adopted the following additional standards that are more stringent than federal standards, including:
Details on the Alaska-specific regulations can be found here: Alaska Administrative Code; Title 08. Labor and Workforce Development; Chapter 61. Occupational Safety and Health (http://www.touchngo.com/lglcntr/ akstats/aac/title08/chapter061.htm).
While there are many differences that employers must consider, there are several key differences that Alaska employers must comply with:
There are two arms of AKOSH, Enforcement and Consultation. Each group has distinct functions.
The Enforcement Section performs inspections, based on complaints and targeted programs, and issues monetary citations for serious violations of standards. According to the 2018 AKOSH Field Operations Manual, the top priorities for conducting inspections are:
In addition to the initial inspection, OSHA’s compliance officers must also conduct follow-up and monitoring inspections to ensure that hazards are being corrected and employees are being protected. AKOSH Compliance officers conduct between 300 and 350 site visits per year.
The top 10 most frequently cited standards in Alaska for FY 2017 (Oct. 2, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017) were:
Consultation and Training section
The Consultation and Training Section provides assistance to employers in a non-threatening environment to identify and eliminate serious workplace hazards. In addition to worksite inspections and training, AKOSH certifies training courses for asbestos abatement workers, explosive handlers and workers who apply hazardous paint. AKOSH has partnered with AGC to present limited training courses.
The primary role of consultation services is to provide small employers (250 workers or less) with assistance to enhance worker safety. Employers may request consultation services by phone or online. Typical wait times may be as little as two to three weeks during the quiet (fall/winter) season or up to several months during the busy summer season. AKOSH offers on-site consultation services to help employers comply with AKOSH standards, regulations and other provisions of the state occupational safety and health statute and to identify and correct potential safety and health hazards.
A site visit typically begins with a written agreement outlining the scope and commitments the employer agrees to make. If, during the visit, there are any hazards that present an imminent danger to employees, they must be abated immediately or the employees must be removed from the hazard. For serious hazards, employers may be given additional time to abate the hazard; between a day or a month, depending on severity and other factors. Identified hazards not abated in the specified time period can be turned over to Enforcement, unless specific written arrangements are made. Consultation officers conducted 520 visits in 2016 and 395 visits in 2017.
Employers may also call their local Consultation and Training office for assistance over the phone.
The Consultation and Training Section also oversees voluntary recognition programs such as the Voluntary Protection Program, or VPP, the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, or SHARP, and the Construction Health and Safety Excellence Program, or CHASE.
AKOSH contact information
For further information, visit the AKOSH website at http://labor.state.ak.us/lss/oshhome.htm. You can visit the Anchorage Consultation and Training office, which offers many helpful resources, at 1251 Muldoon Road, Suite 109, Anchorage, AK 99504, Fax: 907-269-4950; or email AKOSH at Anchorage.LSS-OSH@alaska.gov. Statewide, you may call Consultation and Training at 800-656-4972 or Enforcement at 800-770-4940.
Occupational accidents that result in the death or overnight hospitalization of one or more employees must be reported to AKOSH within eight hours. Immediately report accidents to 800-770-4940 or 907-269-4940 (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday Alaska time); or 800-321-6742 (after 4:30 p.m. or on weekends or holidays).
The Engagement Effect, a division of Ross Performance Group, LLC, offers solutions in organizational results, safety and health, leadership, talent management and culture change. Learn more at www.theengagementeffect.com or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.