SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS
534 N.E.2d 962, 126 Ill. 2d 356, 128 Ill. Dec. 517 1989.IL.118
Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Earl E. Strayhorn, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WARD delivered the opinion of the court.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WARD
The issue we consider on this appeal is whether the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. § 651 et seq. (1982)) preempts the State from prosecuting the defendants, in the absence of approval from OSHA officials, for conduct which is regulated by OSHA occupational health and safety standards.
Indictments returned in the circuit court of Cook County charged the defendants, Chicago Magnet Wire Corporation, and five of its officers and agents, Anthony Jordan, Kevin Keane, Frank Asta, Gerald Colby and Allan Simon, with aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 12-4(a), (c)) and reckless conduct (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 12-5). The individual defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 8-2(a)). In substance, the indictments alleged that the defendants knowingly and recklessly caused the injury of 42 employees by failing to provide for them necessary safety precautions in the workplace to avoid harmful exposure to "poisonous and stupifying substances" used by the company in its manufacturing processes. On the defendants' motion, the trial court dismissed the charges, holding that OSHA has preempted the State from prosecuting the defendants for the conduct alleged in the indictments. The appellate court affirmed (157 Ill. App. 3d 797), and we granted the State's petition for leave to appeal under Supreme Court Rule 315 (107 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)).
Defendant Chicago Magnet Wire Corporation is an Illinois corporation whose principal business is the coating of wire with various substances and chemical compounds. Anthony Jordan, Kevin Keane, Allan Simon, Frank Asta and Gerald Colby are officers or managerial agents of the corporation.
The indictments charged that the defendants unreasonably exposed 42 employees to "poisonous and stupifying substances" in the workplace and prevented the employees from protecting themselves by "failing to provide necessary safety instructions and necessary safety equipment and sundry health monitoring systems." The indictments also alleged that the defendants improperly stored the substances, provided inadequate ventilation and maintained dangerously overheated working conditions.
Counts of the indictments charging the defendants with aggravated battery alleged that the defendants exposed the employees to the toxic substances with "the conscious awareness that a substantial probability existed that their acts would cause great bodily harm" in violation of section 12-4(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 12-4(a)). Other counts charging the defendants with aggravated battery alleged that the defendants knowingly committed acts "with the awareness that a substantial probability existed" that their conduct would cause the employees to "take by deception [of the employer], for other than medical purposes, poisonous and stupifying substances" in violation of section 12-4(c) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 12-4(c)). The defendants were charged with reckless conduct in that they exposed the employees to substances "in a reckless manner, which caused harm to and endangered . . . [their] bodily safety . . . by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm . . . which constitute[s] a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in this situation." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 12-5.) The conspiracy counts alleged that the individual defendants conspired with the intent to commit aggravated battery and charged that in furtherance of the conspiracy, the defendants committed certain overt acts. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 8-2(a).
The circuit court dismissed the indictments, holding that OSHA preempts the States from prosecuting employers for conduct which is governed by Federal occupational health and safety standards, unless the State has received approval from OSHA officials to administer its own occupational safety and health plan. The court stated that because the conduct of the defendants set out in the indictments was governed by OSHA occupational health and safety standards, and the State had not received approval from OSHA officials to administer its own plan, it could not prosecute the defendants for such conduct.
The extent to which State law is preempted by Federal legislation under the supremacy clause of the Constitution of the United States is essentially a question of congressional intendment. (See Malone v. White Motor Corp. (1978), 435 U.S. 497, 504, 55 L. Ed. 2d 443, 450, 98 S. Ct. 1185, 1190; Retail Clerks International Association, Local 1625 v. Schermerhorn (1963), 375 U.S. 96, 11 L. Ed. 2d 179, 84 S. Ct. 219.) Thus, if Congress, when acting within constitutional limits, explicitly mandates the preemption of State law within a stated situation, we need not proceed beyond the statutory language to determine that State law is preempted. (Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. State Energy Resources Conservation & Development Comm'n (1983), 461 U.S. 190, 203, 75 L. Ed. 2d 752, 765, 103 S. Ct. 1713, 1722.) Even absent an express command by Congress to preempt State law in a particular area, preemptive intent may be inferred where "the scheme of federal regulation is sufficiently comprehensive to make reasonable the inference that Congress 'left no room' for supplementary state regulation" (Hillsborough County v. Automated Medical Laboratories, Inc. (1985), 471 U.S. 707, 713, 85 L. Ed. 2d 714, 721, 105 S. Ct. 2371, 2375; Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp. (1947), 331 U.S. 218, 230, 91 L. Ed. 1447, 1459, 67 S. Ct. 1146, 1152), or where the regulated field is one in which "the federal interest is so dominant that the federal system will be assumed to preclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject" (Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp. (1947), 331 U.S. 218, 230, 91 L. Ed. 1447, 1459, 67 S. Ct. 1146, 1152; Hines v. Davidowitz (1941), 312 U.S. 52, 85 L. Ed. 581, 61 S. Ct. 399). Congressional intent to preempt State law may also be inferred where "'the object sought to be obtained by the federal law and the character of obligations imposed by it may reveal the same purpose.'" Fidelity Federal Savings & Loan Association v. de la Cuesta (1982), 458 U.S. 141, 153, 73 L. Ed. 2d 664, 675, 102 S. Ct. 3014, 3022, quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp. (1947), 331 U.S. 218, 230, 91 L. Ed. 1447, 1459, 67 S. Ct. 1146, 1152.
The declared purpose of OSHA is "to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources." (29 U.S.C. § 651(b) (1982).) To this end, Congress gave the Secretary of Labor the authority "to set mandatory occupational safety and health standards" for the workplace and to secure compliance with those standards by imposing civil and criminal sanctions for their violation. (See 29 U.S.C. 651(b)(3) (1982).) An "occupational health and safety standard" is defined as "a standard which requires conditions, or the adoption or use of one or more practices, means, methods, operations, or processes, reasonably necessary or appropriate to provide safe or healthful employment and places of employment." (29 U.S.C. § 652(8) (1982).) OSHA also imposes a duty on employers, separate and independent from specific standards set by the Secretary, to provide a workplace "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees." 29 U.S.C. § 654(a) (1982).
Congress also authorized the Secretary to conduct investigations and on-site inspections of workplaces and to institute enforcement proceedings for violations of OSHA standards. (See 29 U.S.C. §§ 657 through 659, 662 (1982).) For violations of specific OSHA standards or section 5(a), OSHA authorizes the imposition of civil fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 (29 U.S.C. §§ 666(a) through (c) (1982)). Criminal fines of $10,000 may be imposed for giving unauthorized advanced notification of an OSHA inspection or knowingly making false statements on any OSHA filing. (See 29 U.S.C. §§ 666(e), (f) (1982).) OSHA also provides for prison terms of up to six months for wilful violations of OSHA standards that result in an employee's death. 29 U.S.C. § 666(e) (1982).
The defendants read section 18(a) of OSHA (29 U.S.C. § 667(a) (1982)) to mean that under it Congress explicitly provided that the States are preempted from asserting jurisdiction over any occupational health and safety issue that is governed by OSHA occupational health and safety standards unless the State obtains approval from OSHA officials to administer its own occupational health and safety plan under section 18(b). Section 18 provides:
"(a) Nothing in this chapter shall prevent any State agency or court from asserting jurisdiction under State law over any occupational safety or health issue with respect to which no standard is in effect under section 655 of this title.
(b) Any State which, at any time, desires to assume responsibility for development and enforcement therein of occupational safety and health standards relating to any occupational safety or health issue with respect to which a Federal standard has been promulgated under section 655 of this title shall submit a State plan for the ...