New safety standard in effect for local homebuilders

Fall Protection

Fall ProtectionEffective Saturday, the state’s homebuilding industry will undergo a change in Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health policy.

On Friday The Yellow Sheet Report reported that Arizona’s statutes on fall protection standards have been automatically repealed, with federal standards going into effect.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration formally rejected Arizona’s state-specific fall protection plan, which was enacted in 2012 and amended last year, the Yellow Sheet reported.

Under the 2014 law, Arizona’s fall protection provisions are repealed if OSHA rejects the changes offered by the bill, with Arizona safety standards then going back to the federal standards.

Under the starndards, local homebuilding workers must be tied while working at six feet off the ground. Previously it had been 15 feet, based on state law.

Spencer Kamps, a lobbyist for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, told the Yellow Sheet the decision is disappointing, especially considering that Arizona’s home building industry has a substantially lower fatality rate than the national average — 4.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers, as compared with 9.0 nationally.

OSHA did not to take Arizona’s safety record into account when it decided to impose its standards on the state, nor does the state have an opportunity to appeal the decision, Kamps said.

“We believed, and continue to believe, that [the state] can adopt and experiment with standards that are safer than the federal standard, and that’s what the record still stands at. Arizona is safer than the national standard,” Kamps told Yellow Sheet. “…Unfortunately, Arizona is going to have to follow the federal standard, which I think puts workers at risk.”

However, lobbyist Mike Gardner, who represents the Arizona Builders Alliance, told the Yellow Sheet the new standards aren’t an issue for his commercial builder clients because, unlike residential builders, they already use standards that the federal government finds suitable.

Some feared the federal government might step in to enforce fall protection standards, which could have affected residential and commercial builders.

With the decision, fall policy will continue to be enforced by the state and not the federal government.

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February 2015