Preemption may be either expressed or implied, and is compelled whether Congress' command is explicitly stated in the statute's language or implicitly contained in its structure and purpose. Absent explicit pre-emptive language, the United States Supreme Court has recognized at least two types of implied preemption: field preemption, where the scheme of federal regulation is so pervasive as to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it, and conflict preemption, where compliance with both federal and state regulations is a physical impossibility, or where state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. The court's ultimate task in any preemption case is to determine whether state regulation is consistent with the structure and purpose of the statute as a whole.
The trade association's members were subject to the OSH Act and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Thus, the trade association was responsible for training and certifying hazardous waste remediation workers. To conduct hazardous waste operations in Illinois, the trade association members had to additionally comply with the Illinois' licensing acts that regulated hazardous waste for the purpose of protecting the environment. The trade association filed an action that sought to enjoin the state agency from enforcing the Illinois licensing acts that related to hazardous waste. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), 29 U.S.C.S. § 651 et seq., preempted all conflicting state law. The state agency appealed.
Does the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 preempt state law?
The Court concluded that the OSH Act § 18(b), 29 U.S.C.S. § 667(b), preempted any state law or regulations that established an occupational health and safety standard on an issue for which OSHA had already promulgated a standard, unless the State had obtained the Secretary of Labor's approval for its own plan. The Court also determined that the Illinois' licensing acts did not escape preemption merely because the state agency maintained that its regulation was concerned with the safety of the general public, not just worker safety.