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ASSE protests new Arizona bill that lowers construction worker fall protections

roofingWith a new state bill that raises the height for fall protection requirements, Arizona is pitting itself against the federal government – and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is urging OSHA to enforce federal fall hazard standards.

“In support of its Arizona members, the ASSE is asking OSHA to to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) will enforce residential fall protection for those working at heights six feet and above, not 15 feet and above, as called for in a new state bill,” said the ASSE’s Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, CPSI,

“Alarmed at the impact this will have on our Arizona ASSE members’ ability to protect workers, we urge you to enforce your responsibilities under Section 18 of the OSH Act and ensure that ADOSH is at least as effective as OSHA is in protecting residential construction workers from fall hazards,” Norris said in her June 25 letter to Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels.

In March, Arizona passed SB1441, actually barring enforcement of fall protection for those working under 15 feet in residential construction.  OSHA last year changed its policy to require residential construction workers to be protected at six feet.  SB 1441 ensures that ADOSH cannot meet the requirement established in Section 18 of the OSH Act that calls for a state plan be “at least as effective” as the same standards and activities of federal OSHA.

In 2010, more than 10,000 construction workers were injured as a result of falling while working from heights and 255 workers died from on-the-job injuries. In Arizona in 2010 there were 77 work-related fatalities with falls being the third leading cause of worker deaths resulting in 10 fatalities. Seven workers died from work-related injuries due to lower level falls and three from ladder falls.

Norris noted that, not only are workers better protected at the six feet threshold, the financial impact of not providing fall protection to workers for businesses is high. A recent OSHA study, compiled with data from 36 states titled ‘Workers’ Compensation Costs of Falls in Construction’ found falls from elevation claims costs by insured roofers average approximately $54 million a year. It also found that each fall from elevations by roofers, carpenters and other workers in construction costs between $50,000 and $106,000 each.

Norris said that, at a time when OSHA is working to develop a better understanding of how to measure the effectiveness of state plans, including a June 25 stakeholders meeting in Washington, D.C., addressing ADOSH’s inability to meet OSHA’s standard in enforcement of residential fall protection will provide all state plans clear notice of the most basic measure of state plan effectiveness and requirements.

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