Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are threatening to assert jurisdiction over workplace safety in three states that haven’t adopted President Joe Biden’s emergency regulation for health care facilities

OSHA state plans are available in South Carolina, Arizona, and Utah. Federal OSHA is responsible for workplace safety in the United States, however states can handle this on their own provided they comply with minimum federal regulations.

OSHA officials said Tuesday that those three states had missed the deadline to implement the Biden administration’s new rule meant to protect health care workers from COVID-19. If they don’t implement such a rule, the administration will move to revoke approval of their state OSHA plans — which would subject employers in South Carolina, Arizona and Utah to federally run inspections.

“OSHA has worked in good faith to help these three state plans to come into compliance,” Jim Frederick, the acting head of OSHA, said Tuesday on a call with reporters. “But their continued refusal is a failure to maintain their state plan commitment to thousands of workers in their states.”

OSHA does not play around with COVID-19 safety protocols, as President Joe Biden has made clear.
via Associated Press

Trevor Laky, a spokesperson for the Industrial Commission of Arizona, which includes the state’s OSHA office, said state officials were “surprised” to receive the letter threatening to revoke approval of the state plan. According to him, Arizona is developing a rule that will be open for public comments.

“We’ve been working in good faith with them,” Laky said.

Not immediately responded to messages left at OSHA offices located in South Carolina or Utah

The friction between OSHA and these three states could serve as a preview of battles over the Biden administration’s upcoming vaccine ruleIt is. This regulation will require large employers to make sure that workers have COVID-19 vaccinations or are subject to routine testing.

Some Republican politicians have vowed to ignore the regulation, but they could wind up in the same boat as South Carolina, Arizona and Utah: facing the possibility of losing their state plan’s approval. Many employers would prefer that state plans were less strict in enforcement than OSHA.

“Their continued refusal is a failure to maintain their state plan commitment to thousands of workers in their states.”

Jim Frederick, OSHA’s acting head

Debbie Berkowitz was a safety expert who worked under President Barack Obama at OSHA and praised Biden’s decision to issue the warning.

“This is a very important message,” she said. “I think states need to think long and hard about what they’re doing here.”

She predicts that OSHA would find it difficult to attract employers from the three States.

“The bottom line is private-sector employers in state plans do not want federal OSHA coming in,” she said. “In almost every state where they have a state plan, although they have the same regulations, enforcement is so much weaker.”

OSHA officials announced that they were going to put notices on the federal register informing the public of their intention of reexamining the state plans. If OSHA and the states can’t find a resolution, federal officials and inspectors could end up taking over part or all of the enforcement in those states, or carrying out enforcement alongside the states.

Federal law requires that state OSHA plans protect workers at least equal effectiveness to federal OSHA. Each state has its own OSHA plan that covers both the private and public sector. Twenty-two of these states are covered. The effectiveness of every agency varies from state to state

OSHA’s COVID-19 health care rule, published by the Biden administration, covers hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings. It requires that employers assess risks, offer personal protective equipment, and enforce social ditancing. OSHA gave July 21 as the deadline for states to adopt this rule.


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