Thursday, August 21, 2014

DON'T FALL, GUY: OSHA Takes Next Step Vs. Arizona Re: Residential Construction Workers; AZ Legislature's Protection Reached Too High

(This article was researched and co-written by Phoenix attorney Paul Weich; headline and links added by Arizona's Politics.)
U.S. OSHA is today proposing to reject Arizona's safety standards that only protect construction workers from heights of 15+ feet, instead of 6+ feet.  OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) says the Arizona Legislature did not properly address the issue in the past legislative session and that the more protective federal standard needs to be enforced.

The Legislature added language requiring construction companies to provide fall protection mechanisms (harnesses, etc.) if workers are 6 or more feet above ground, but did not require their usage unless the workers are 15 or more feet up.  Even then, the Legislature retained language that gives employers exceptions that are broader than the federal regulators think are feasible.  The bill (SB1307) - that was approved unanimously by both the House and Senate - was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on April 22 - was in response to earlier correspondence from OSHA to Arizona to make sure that the more protective standards were put into place.

Today's publication (posted below) of the proposed rejection of Arizona's safety standards notes the new bill and the conditional repeal provision added by the Legislature, and suggests that it may result in a new agreement between OSHA and ADOSH (Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health) to enforce the more stringent federal standard.

In March, OSHA had threatened to pull the $2.4M annual grant it provides to Arizona for safety inspections and to move in federal inspectors, according to the Arizona Republic.  However, OSHA's published memorandum today in support of the proposed rejection makes no mention of that and instead suggests that a new agreement between the federal and state agencies for state inspectors to continue inspections would be optimal.

The Arizona Republic article cites statistics and examples of deaths and injuries caused by construction worker falls of between 6 and 15 feet.

Responses to today's publication - including requests for a hearing - are due by September 25.

(h/t The Hill)

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