Federal OSHA may step in to take over workplace safety regulation from three states – Arizona, South Carolina and Utah – for failing to properly address job-related COVID-19 exposure.
The three states failed to adopt rules at least as effective as federal OSHA’s requiring employers to adopt certain COVID-related safety measures, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Failure to maintain approved plans
OSHA-approved plans are in place in 28 states and U.S. territories, and where no plan was approved, federal OSHA retains authority.
States with their own versions of OSHA “can assume responsibility for occupational safety if the government approves their plan for doing so and if the plan remains at least as effective as federal enforcement,” according to the New York Times.
However, if a state fails to maintain an effective plan its authority to regulate workplace safety could be revoked entirely or in part – as in coverage of specific industries could be revoked.
Jim Frederick, acting director of OSHA, told The New York Times in a conference call that the three states’ “continued refusal (to come into compliance) is a failure to maintain their state plan commitment to thousands of workers in their state.”
The states respond
Representatives from the three states said they feel their OSHA programs had at least proven as effective as the federal agency’s, and didn’t want to implement COVID-19 measures that would place an undue burden on employers, especially those in the healthcare industry.
Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, indicated his state began reviewing the federal COVID mandate after learning it was not in compliance, and Governor Spencer Cox of Utah rejected the conclusion its plan was not as effective as federal OSHA’s.
New COVID rule on the way
The federal agency is preparing to release a new rule requiring companies with 100 or more employees to mandate workers either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing, and some states have said they’ll challenge that rule in court.