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Federal OSHA must step in after long history of failures on workplace safety in Arizona, say state and national experts

Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Press Contacts: 

Arizona contact: Katelyn Parady, katelyn@nationalcosh.org, 307.389.7387

National COSH contact: melissa@nationalcosh.org, 603.505.7135

Federal OSHA must step in after long history of failures on workplace safety in Arizona, say state and national experts

 

TUCSON: Arizona workers are at risk after a long history of failure by state authorities to properly regulate workplace safety in Arizona, say state and local experts. Federal OSHA is making the right move, they say, to consider revoking the authority of the Arizona Industrial Commission to enforce federal safety laws. 

“I don’t enjoy saying this, but it’s a fact: We need the feds to step in,” said Shannon Foley, co-chair of the Worker Safety Committee at IATSE Local 415 and a volunteer with the Arizona Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (AZCOSH). “The Arizona Industrial Commission is too cozy with industry and they are not doing enough to keep workers safe on the job.”

At least 100 Arizona workers died on the job in 2020 from causes that include electrocution and chemical poisoning in a confined space. Fatal COVID-19 infections in the last two years resulted in thousands of worker deaths largely uninvestigated by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH). 

“This isn’t about Washington DC vs. Arizona or labor vs management,” said Foley. “It’s about all of us pulling together so that every worker comes home safely at the end of every shift.  We all have a right to a safe workplace, no matter what state we live in.”

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency, announced today that it would begin a process to “reconsider and revoke” Arizona’s authority to enforce federal safety laws.

Arizona OSHA, a state agency under supervision of the Arizona Industrial Commission, currently has responsibility for enforcing federal and state workplace safety laws in most private-sector Arizona workplaces. The state agency has a long history of failing to effectively regulate workplace safety. This includes:

 

  • In numerous instances, failing to issue any citation or penalty after a worker has died on the job.

  • Allowing employers to negotiate reduced penalties for safety violations before the Arizona Industrial Commission, without adequate notice to or input from affected workers.

  • Failure to issue citations in response to complaints about workplace exposure to COVID-19, even as other states have taken enforcement actions.

  • Failure to adopt a COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard, as required by Federal law. 

“Revoking state authority to enforce workplace safety is not a step to be taken lightly,” said Peter Dooley, a certified industrial hygienist (CIH) based in Tucson. Dooley is the safety and health senior project coordinator at the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). “Federal OSHA has tried repeatedly to work with authorities in Arizona to bring the state in compliance with U.S. laws – but the state has failed, time and again, to fully protect workers.”

The review process announced today by federal OSHA includes several opportunities for public input. The public can submit comments, with a deadline of May 26, 2022 and an online public hearing will take place, if necessary, on August 16, 2022. Those who want to testify must notify the agency by May 11, 2022. 

“If you live in Arizona and you’ve had a safety issue at work, this is a great opportunity to get involved and tell your story,” said Dooley. “One thing we know for sure: The best way to get the safety protections we need is to stand up and fight for better working conditions.” 

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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 National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, @NationalCOSH on Twitter and @NationalCOSH on Instagram.