PHOENIX — Arizona’s disdain for what many say is an all-too powerful
federal government could grow if a disagreement over federal construction
standards is not resolved.
It could, in fact, result in the federal Occupational Safety and Health
Administration taking over the state’s inspections and oversight of construction
Arizona has its own division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
but it must comply with minimum federal requirements. Until last year, it did.
But legislation in 2012 changed Arizona’s safety fall standards for residential
construction projects by requiring conventional fall protection for work
performed at a minimum of 15 feet. Federal standards require that minimum
protection be applied for work performed at 6 feet. The federal agency has
initiated proceedings against the state and has threatened to take over
The Arizona Builders’ Alliance, a group that represents hundreds of contractors
and others in the industry, said that would be detrimental. That’s because a
federal takeover would affect not just residential construction but the industry
as a whole, requiring local contractors to work with a Washington, D.C.-based
agency as opposed to one in Arizona, executive director Mark Minter said.
“As business people, we don’t like government telling us what to do, and we
like the federal government telling us what to do even less. But this is safety
standard that is used universally,” Minter said.
An OSHA spokeswoman confirmed that it would be likely the federal agency would
take over not just residential projects but all construction oversight in
Arizona. She said that pending legislation in the Arizona Legislature that would
modify the 2012 law still does not meet requirements. She also said the agency
would rather work with the state to correct the issue than to take over state
The sponsor of that legislation did not return repeated calls for comment.
The state division also has refused to answer questions but provided a
statement through its public relations agency, saying the division is “prepared
to defend that program and will respond as appropriate” to the federal agency.
The state has until April 18 to respond to the federal agency’s notice of
Meanwhile, U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake have asked officials from the
federal agency to delay any proceedings against Arizona.
“Ensuring worker safety in the construction industry has been and continues to
be a priority for Arizona — long before OSHA found it to be a priority and
mandated federal standards. We ask that you work with the state of Arizona as
it seeks to better comply with the OSHA fall protection standards through
legislation,” the senators wrote.