OSHA Rejects Arizona’s Residential Fall Protection Standards

By Roy Maurer Feb 11, 2015
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Arizona residential contractors are now required to ensure fall protection for homebuilders engaged in construction activities six feet or more above the ground instead of the 15-foot standard enacted into state law in 2012.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) repealed Arizona’s state-specific residential fall protection regulations Feb. 6, 2015, after years of contention.

The Industrial Commission of Arizona stated that effective Feb. 7, 2015, Arizona employers will be required to comply with all provisions of the federal OSHA residential fall protection standards, including but not limited to requiring employers provide fall protection for employees at the trigger height of six feet instead of 15 feet.

Employers believing that adhering to the six-foot standard is not possible are obligated to demonstrate that it is infeasible or that it creates a greater hazard to use conventional fall protection in these circumstances. OSHA has stated in the past that such cases would be rare.

Background

Arizona administers an OSHA-approved state plan to develop and enforce occupational safety and health standards for employers that must be “at least as effective as” that provided by federal OSHA.

In general, federal regulations require that an employee exposed to a fall hazard at a height of six feet or more be protected by conventional fall protection, specifically a guardrail system, safety net system or personal fall arrest system. There is an exception allowing a residential construction employer who can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, to develop and implement their own fall protection plan instead. OSHA’s standard requires that fall protection plans conform to specific criteria, including that they be site-specific and specify the alternative measures that will be taken to eliminate or reduce the possibility of a fall.

In March 2012, an Arizona law was signed changing the trigger for requiring conventional fall protection in residential construction to heights of 15 feet or greater.

As a result of mounting pressure from OSHA, including the threat that the state would lose its approved OSHA plan, a new bill was signed into law in April 2014. It did not amend the 15-foot residential fall protection trigger height to the six-foot height required by OSHA but contained a conditional repeal option for the agency.

OSHA invoked the repeal, allowing Arizona to keep its OSHA-plan status. That status requires Arizona to comply with federal standards but allows inspections to be carried out by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health instead of federal OSHA.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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