TUSCON, ARIZ. – National and state-level safety experts are stressing workers must be a top priority as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reviews Arizona’s compliance with federal safety laws.
OSHA is considering a proposal to reconsider and revoke the state’s authority to enforce federal safety laws “after a long history of failure by the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) and the Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) to properly regulate workplace safety,” a National Council for Occupational Health and Safety (NationalCOSH) release stated.
“Every day we see workers at risk from extreme heat, from COVID, from exposure to toxic chemicals and other hazards. Besides way too many workers dying from preventable safety workplace hazards, COVID has shown us how health hazards can kill and disable workers on the job. ADOSH has performed very poorly in responding to these cries for help from workers. We need to focus on how to reduce risk and make sure everyone goes home safely. Whatever federal and state officials need to do to make that happen – let’s get it done,” said Shannon Foley, IATSE Local 415 and the Arizona Occupational Health and Safety Network volunteer, in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA said on Aug. 10 it will postpone a scheduled hearing on the matter and extend public comment for an additional 60 days. Those interested in commenting can do so online using Docket No. OSHA-2021-0012.
OSHA has stated additional time is required to review new measures adopted by ICA and ADOSH regarding penalties for workplace safety violations and the adoption of long overdue safety standards to protect workers from COVID-19 and other hazards, the NationalCOSH release said.
“Revoking a state plan would be an unprecedented action by OSHA. It makes sense for OSHA to take the time to review all the evidence and get this right, because having Arizona DOSH underperform lowers the bar for the rest of the country – and all workers are paying the price,” NationalCOSH safety and health senior co-ordinator Peter Dooley said.
Dooley, a certified industrial hygienist, filed a federal complaint against ICA and ADOSH in 2016 concenring ICA’s practice of reducing fines to employers without any due process for workers, unions or labor organizations. OSHA found in 2017 that Arizona’s ICA was “operating outside its legal authority.”
“Workers and advocates fought long and hard to win safety protections under federal law, and the statute is 100 per cent clear. States like Arizona have to meet or exceed federal standards, because all workers have a right to a safe workplace, no matter where they live,” Dooley said.
“Federal OSHA has tried repeatedly to work with authorities in Arizona to bring the state in compliance with U.S. laws. This is a good opportunity for a transparent, public process to review the record and find out if Arizona is finally doing all that is needed to protect workers from preventable injuries, illnesses and fatalities.”