On Feb. 6, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) formally rejected the state of Arizona's standard for fall protection used in residential construction (80 Federal Register 6652, Feb. 6, 2015). The action triggered a state legislative provision that caused Arizona's fall-protection rules for residential work to essentially revert to existing federal OSHA provisions. OSHA's action forestalled for the near future any effort by the federal agency to take over administration and enforcement of safety and health regulations in Arizona's residential construction industry.
However, OSHA's decision has increased uncertainty regarding the role of OSHA state-plan states. The decision begs the questions: What did Congress intend with regard to overall workplace safety when it penned the requirement in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 that states' rules must be "at least as effective" as the federal rules? And should OSHA be doing something different to ensure worker safety?
On Dec. 22, 2010, OSHA issued a compliance directive rescinding a group of residential fall-protection alternatives for workers performing a variety of tasks, including work on foundations and formwork, setting of trusses, sheathing floors and roofs, work in attics and roofing work. The original instruction detailing these alternatives to conventional fall-protection systems (guardrails, safety nets and personal fall-arrest [PFA] systems) was published in 1995 and reissued in a plain-language version in 1999.