Lawsuit form an a desk with pen and calculator

States that administer Occupational Health and Safety Administration-approved state plans should not be required to increase civil penalties against employers who violate regulations to match federal penalties, according to one governor.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) announced Wednesday that his state is suing the federal government over what he called “an unlawful attempt” to force such states to do just that. The challenge comes as the federal government seeks to have Arizona’s state agency revoked.

“The outcome of this case could have national implications. If OSHA wins, it will force the hand of other state plans to make commensurate adjustments to their maximum penalties,” attorney Travis Vance, co-chair of the Fisher Phillips Workplace Safety Practice Group, told the McKnight’s Business Daily.

Twenty-two states have OSHA-approved state plans, according to the national agency.

The Labor Department in April proposed the action against Arizona’s state plan after a “nearly decade-long pattern of failures to adopt and enforce standards and enforcement policies at least as effective” as those used by the federal OSHA, the department said in a press release

According to the federal OSHA, the Industrial Commission of Arizona and its sub-agency, the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, have stated that they completed several measures to address concerns that OSHA identified in its proposal, including adopting an increase in maximum penalties as well as standards and enforcement directives that were past due.

In South Carolina, McMaster’s lawsuit is a pre-emptive measure seeking to prohibit the federal OSHA from taking the similar action against that state’s state plan.

“South Carolina OSHA has run its own state plan for more than four decades, consistently outperforming federally run plans and helping to foster safe work environments for our people — all while maintaining our reputation as a state where companies want to do business,” McMaster said in a statement. “This attempt to unlawfully demand the state plan change the civil penalties sets a dangerous precedent not just for South Carolina, but for every other state managing its own plan.”

McMaster’s lawsuit asks a court to declare unlawful OSHA’s 2022 mandate requiring that state civil penalties be at least as great as federal civil penalties.