Bloomberg Law
March 2, 2023, 10:30 PM

Judge Throws Out South Carolina Suit Seeking Shield From OSHA

Bruce Rolfsen
Bruce Rolfsen

A federal judge Thursday dismissed South Carolina’s lawsuit seeking to prevent OSHA from forcing the state to increase maximum fines for workplace safety violations.

In a 10-page decision, US District Judge Sherri Lydon said she concluded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s decision in 2022 requiring state workplace safety program maximum fines to match federal maximums wasn’t “a reviewable agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act.”

“We thus do not have jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims and must dismiss their complaint,” the judge from the US District Court for the District of South Carolina wrote.

Although OSHA hadn’t taken any actions to sanction the state’s workplace safety agency, state officials were concerned the federal government eventually would threaten to assume control of the state program.

South Carolina is among the 21 states approved by OSHA to operate their own workplace safety agencies covering private industry workers if the state program is equal to or more protective than federal OSHA’s efforts.

In filings with the US District Court for the District of South Carolina, OSHA countered that the maximum fine increases were required by a federal law passed in 2015 that allows OSHA maximum fine thresholds to keep pace with inflation.

South Carolina filed its lawsuit Aug. 8, about the same time that OSHA issued reports showing that the state’s average 2021 fine for a serious violation was $1,592, about 50% below the federal average of $3,100.

The US Department of Justice represented OSHA. The state was represented by attorneys from the Office of the Governor and state Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation.

The case is McMaster v. DOL, D.S.C., No. 22-cv-2603, order issued on 3/2/23.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at; Genevieve Douglas at