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Ohio Mfrs.' Ass'n v. Akron, City of

Citation: 16 ELR 20583
No. No. C85-3658A, 628 F. Supp. 623/(N.D. Ohio, 02/07/1986)

The court holds that § 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and the Hazard Communication Standard do not preempt Akron's workplace right-to-know ordinance, and that the ordinance does not violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The court first holds that § 18 of the OSH Act does not expressly preempt the ordinance. The court rules that the OSH Act does not expressly preempt municipal workplace right-to-know acts applicable to employees in the manufacturing sector. Congress failed to explicitly preempt the laws of political subdivisions in § 18 of the Act, yet refers to them in other sections. Other federal regulatory statutes explicitly refer to political subdivisions. Moreover, the overriding purpose of the OSH Act is to assure worker safety. That Congress intended concerns for worker safety to predominate over concerns over regulatory burdens due to inconsistent regulation is evidenced by § 18, which sets a floor on occupational health and safety standards and allows states to enact more stringent ones via a federally approved § 18(c) plan.

The court next holds that the Hazard Communication Standard does not expressly preempt the Akron ordinance. The court refuses to consider language in the Federal Register, which stated that preemption of conflicting state and local regulations will ensure uniformity and reduce the burden on interstate commerce, since such interpretative language by the agency is not part of the regulation and does not have the force of law. Even if this language could be construed as expressly preempting municipal laws, the court rules, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has no authority to preempt local regulations in view of the clear intent of Congress to the contrary.

The court next holds that the Hazard Communication Standard does not impliedly preempt any individual provision of the Akron ordinance. None of these provisions actually conflicts with federal law making compliance a physical impossibility, nor do any of them frustrate the policy of the OSH Act to promote worker safety. Finally, the court holds that the ordinance does not violate the Commerce Clause. The burden imposed by the ordinance on interstate commerce, which is speculative at best, is not excessive in comparison to the tangible and direct benefits to Akron workers.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
John W. Hoberg, Marcia J. Mengel
Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease
52 E. Gay St., P.O. Box 1008, Columbus OH 43216
(614) 464-6400

Counsel for Defendants
Janice E. Crossland, Ass't Director of Law
Government Office Bldg., 161 S. High St., Suite 202, Akron OH 44308
(216) 375-2030