Some 21 states and Puerto Rico operate their own Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) operations, covering 40 percent of all affected entities (government and private sector), but they perform more inspections each year than federal OSHA, 52,000 vs. 40,000. However, federal inspectors term a greater percentage of violations as serious, resulting in an average fine for a federal violation of $2,133 compared to just $963 for state violations.

The results stem from an audit by the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) titled "OSHA Can Better Respond to State-Run Programs Facing Challenges."

The report was critical of the lapses in federal OSHA oversight of state programs:

Although OSHA evaluates state-run programs during its annual reviews, GAO found that OSHA does not hold states accountable for addressing issues in a timely manner or establish time frames for when to resume federal enforcement when necessary. In addition, the current statutory framework may not permit OSHA to quickly resume concurrent enforcement authority with the state when a state is struggling with performance issues. As a result, a state's performance problems can continue for years.

In 2011, Nevada OSHA was criticized for shortcomings, but to date only one state, Hawaii, is in danger of losing its program. Six federal OSHA staffers have been dispatched to help Hawaii OSHA get back on its feet.