OSHA Clash with State Safety Regulators a Concern to
In a heightened regulatory environment, employers in
all industries should take proactive steps to ensure compliance with
workplace safety laws
In a disagreement between federal and state agencies
that affects Arizona employers, the federal Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) and the Arizona Department of Safety and Health (ADOSH)
have clashed over enforcement of workplace safety laws.
Under the work-sharing agreement between OSHA and ADOSH,
Arizona may enforce its statutes at the expense of federal enforcement only if
the standards in those statutes are at least as protective of worker safety as
the federal standards. The recent controversy is an indicator that OSHA is
closely monitoring enforcement by the State, which is consistent with the
increased efforts nationwide. OSHA has been increasingly active over the past
few years, not only citing a larger number of employers annually than ever
before, but also increasing the fines it assesses.
The OSHA-ADOSH dispute concerns enforcement of “fall
protection” safety standards aimed at preventing workers from falling at
residential construction jobsites. In 2012, the Arizona legislature adopted a
statute requiring contractors to take safety precautions against falls at 15
feet, but federal law requires fall protection at six feet.
The American Society of Safety Engineers complained to
OSHA, and in December 2012 OSHA warned ADOSH that, if the state agency did not
begin enforcing the more protective federal standard, OSHA could take over
enforcement. In February, ADOSH responded, noting that the federal directive was
based on a standard that had not been effectively enforced for 15 years. ADOSH
further noted that the state’s enforcement efforts have been effective in
achieving a low fall and fatality injury rate.
As of the writing of this article, OSHA had not yet
responded to ADOSH. It therefore remains to be seen whether the federal agency
will pursue taking over enforcement in Arizona. Regardless of whether the agency
does so, OSHA’s threatened actions signal its continuing pursuit of increased
enforcement of safety standards.
OSHA’s efforts are likely not limited to the residential
construction industry. In this regulatory environment, employers in all
industries should take proactive steps to ensure compliance with
workplace safety laws, including:
making safety a priority;
implementing training programs on safety issues;
conducting safety audits;
developing policies that prohibit known unsafe conduct (including a “no
texting while driving” policy for employees who drive for work); and
ensuring appropriate documentation and recordkeeping, including logs,
training records, maintenance records, etc.
If you need assistance with workplace safety or
implementing safety policies, the employment law attorneys at Sacks Tierney can