The U.S. Dept. of Labor is moving to revoke Arizona’s occupational health and safety plan and bring the state under federal standards as it says the state’s own standards have fallen short of federal requirements in a "pattern of failures."
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration says it will publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register on April 21 to begin the process of revoking its approval of Arizona’s state plan.
“OSHA has grown increasingly concerned that actions by the Arizona State OSHA Plan suggest the state is either unable or unwilling to maintain its commitment to provide a program for worker safety and health protection as the OSH Act requires,” the federal agency said in a statement.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, states may develop and run their own job safety programs with the approval of OSHA. State plans must be at least as effective as OSHA’s own requirements in protecting workers to qualify. The agency says 21 states and Puerto Rico have their own plans covering both private sector and government workers, and another five states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands have plans covering just government workers. The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH), under the Industrial Commission of Arizona, is responsible for administering its state plan. OSHA granted Arizona initial approval for its plan in 1974 and final approval in 1985.
The Industrial Commission of Arizona “strongly disagrees with OSHA’s decision to reconsider approval,” Trevor Laky, a commission spokesperson, said in a statement. He said that Arizona always has and will continue to implement standards in accordance with the state plan and Arizona law.
“This reconsideration of Arizona’s state plan status is a serious overreaction by OSHA,” Laky said.
Brandi Devlin, spokesperson for the Arizona State Construction and Building Trades Council, said in a statement that the labor group "applauds any action by the DOL and OSHA that protects its journeypersons and apprentices on job sites."
OSHA says it became concerned with the Arizona plan in 2012 when state lawmakers passed a bill to implement residential construction fall protections “that were clearly less effective than the federal requirements,” requiring protection for workers starting at 15 ft up, compared to 6 ft under federal standards, officials wrote in the Federal Register. OSHA moved to revoke Arizona’s plan in 2014 as a result, but the state brought its plan into compliance and OSHA withdrew its proposal.
However, OSHA officials say Arizona has been delinquent in adopting other standards into its state plan since 2015. The state’s penalty levels have also fallen behind federal standards, which are tied by law to the Consumer Price Index.
The breaking point for federal regulators may have come last year, when Arizona failed to adopt a healthcare industry emergency temporary standard (ETS) for COVID-19 after OSHA issued its own healthcare ETS with requirements like masking for unvaccinated workers. Last October, Labor Dept. officials threatened to revoke OSHA plans from Arizona, Utah and South Carolina for not adopting a version of the ETS aligned with the federal standard. At that time, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called the move “a political stunt and desperate power grab” as the state was engaged in taking public input as part of a rulemaking process. However, OSHA says Arizona never adopted any related standard.
“We won’t allow it without a fight,” Ducey said in an October statement.
OSHA says it will take comments on its proposal through May 26. It may also hold an online hearing Aug. 16. Anyone interested in testifying or questioning witnesses during the hearing must submit notice by May 11. OSHA will then consider comments for 35 days before publishing in the Federal Register its decision on whether it will revoke the state plan. Instructions for submitting comments or participating in the hearing can be found in the Federal Register.