Members of the Arizona State Legislature ground their way to final adjournment of the 2014 Legislative session in late April. As always, next year’s state budget was the driving force of the entire process. During the last few weeks of the session, about 300 bills were stacked in an intentional logjam created in both chambers. The delay of those bills created negotiating items that were then used to facilitate the final agreement on the budget.
One hotly debated issue during the session was the possible takeover of construction inspections by OSHA. The feds had threatened this action since Arizona passed a residential fall protection law in 2012. That law raised the fall protection threshold from six feet up to 15 feet on single-family residential projects. The standard for full fall protection in commercial and industrial construction has been six feet for several years. This change was done at the request of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona.
On March 28, Federal OSHA delivered a “show cause” letter to the Industrial Commission of Arizona. That letter advised the state that Arizona’s fall protection standard was “not as effective” and asked for written response from the state. This was the first step of the process that ends with a federal takeover.
The Arizona Builders’ Alliance aggressively pursued amendment to the existing law, while trying to broker discussion and agreement among all the affected parties. Other members of the business community became involved due to concerns about OSHA takeover having a negative impact on all construction and other businesses as well.
As a result of ABA’s effort, the Legislature passed a “conditional repeal” bill. If the feds publish a notice in the Federal Register that Arizona’s law is “not as effective” as the federal standard, it will trigger an administrative repeal of the residential fall protection law. OSHA has indicated it intends to publish such a notice this summer. If that occurs, the threat of Arizona losing its ability to do construction inspections is gone.