Workers Must Be Top Priority as U.S. OSHA reviews Arizona compliance, say safety experts

Keeping Arizona workers safe from preventable hazards must be a top priority as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reviews Arizona’s compliance with federal safety laws, say state and national experts in occupational safety and health.

“Every day we see workers at risk from extreme heat, from COVID, from exposure to toxic chemicals and other hazards,” said Shannon Foley, co-chair of the Worker Safety Committee at IATSE Local 415 and a volunteer with the Arizona Occupational Health and Safety Network. “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.”

Federal OSHA is considering a proposal to reconsider and revoke Arizona’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.

Federal officials said on August 10 they will postpone a scheduled hearing on the matter, and extend public comment an additional sixty days.  Workers, unions and interested parties can submit comments online using Docket No. OSHA-2021-0012.  Additional time is required, OSHA stated 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.

“Revoking a state plan would be an unprecedented action by OSHA,” said Peter Dooley MS, CIH, CSP, Tucson-based safety and health senior project coordinator for the National Council of Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). “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.”

Dooley, a certified industrial hygienist, filed a federal complaint against ICA and ADOSH in 2016 , identifying ICA’s illegal practice of reducing fines to employers without any due process for workers, unions or labor organizations. In response, US 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% clear,” said Dooley. “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.”

“Federal OSHA has tried repeatedly to work with authorities in Arizona to bring the state in compliance with U.S. laws,” he added. “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.”

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit NationalCOSH.org. Follow us at @NationalCOSH on Facebook, @NationalCOSH on Twitter, LinkedIn and @NationalCOSH on Instagram.

 

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