US agency mulls yanking Arizona’s workplace safety oversight

Apr 20, 2022, 4:00 PM

(Pixabay Photo)...

(Pixabay Photo)

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona may lose the authority to oversee its own workplace safety program because of a pattern of ignoring federal directives involving COVID-19 protection, employer penalties and other issues, the Biden administration said Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is threatening to take the first step in revoking federal approval of Arizona’s plan for monitoring and protecting private, local and state employees.

Assistant U.S. Labor Secretary Doug Parker, who leads the agency, said a Federal Register notice proposing that Arizona’s approval be reconsidered will be published Thursday. The notice opens up a 35-day public comment period. The state could request a hearing at that time. After that, OSHA would issue a final decision.

“OSHA is asking Arizona OSHA to address the litany of issues that the agency has identified over the past decade,” Parker told reporters in a conference call. “And I just want to be clear, this isn’t about a single instance.”

Arizona is the only state that refused to implement a temporary emergency standard related to COVID-19 last June, according to OSHA. The standard included ensuring there was enough personal protective gear for health care workers, room for 6 feet (2 meters) of social distancing and other mitigation measures. Agency officials say they worked “in good faith” and warned the Arizona regulators in October about the potential loss of approval.

At the time, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, called revocation talk “nothing short of a political stunt and desperate power grab.”

The Industrial Commission of Arizona said OSHA officials also took two months to tell the state that its existing wage and hour laws were not sufficient.

Parker declined to comment on those criticisms but said people should give input “based on the facts.”

“If they raise substantial objections, we’ll hold a hearing,” Parker said.

Inadequate maximum fines for worker injuries and deaths that were on the same level as federal penalties was another perceived failure cited by OSHA.

The Biden administration has been at odds with other Republican-controlled states like Utah and South Carolina the past several months. Safety measures for workers at health facilities that care for people with COVID-19 and paid sick time for those who contract the virus or need to get vaccinated were points of contention last year.

OSHA has given up its authority to enforce workplace safety laws and regulations for the private sector in 22 states, including Arizona. In exchange, the states must adopt rules that are as effective or better than the federal regulations at protecting workers. Arizona’s plan has been in place since the 1980s.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Follow @suelenrivera...

SuElen Rivera

Arizona Snowbowl concludes longest winter season in ski resort’s history

Arizona Snowbowl concluded its longest winter season in the Flagstaff ski resort's history on Monday, officials said.

10 hours ago

Split image of police tape and an Avondale Police Department cruiser to illustrate a story about a ...

Suspect in fatal Avondale shooting arrested after barricade situation

The suspect in a fatal shooting was arrested Tuesday after an hourlong barricade situation in Avondale, authorities said.

10 hours ago

(Facebook File Photo/Chandler Police Department)...

Chandler police investigate shooting after 2 people found dead

An investigation is underway in the East Valley after two people were reportedly found dead inside a home.

10 hours ago

A homeless person sits in the median at an intersection Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Phoenix.  (AP...

Luke Forstner

Valley heat especially dangerous for those experiencing homelessness

Summer temperatures have come to the Valley, and those experiencing homelessness are most at risk of the heat’s adverse effects.

10 hours ago

(Photo courtesy of Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)...

Brandon Gray

International real estate conference coming to Phoenix

An international real estate conference is coming to Phoenix on June 9. 

10 hours ago

(OdySea Photo)...

Brandon Gray

Arizona Boardwalk at Talking Stick expanding, acquires 48 acres of land

Arizona Boardwalk at Talking Stick has acquired an additional 48 acres of land for future expansion, the entertainment destination announced Tuesday. 

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Spinal fusion surgery has come a long way, despite misconceptions

As Dr. Justin Field of the Desert Institute for Spine Care explained, “we've come a long way over the last couple of decades.”


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

US agency mulls yanking Arizona’s workplace safety oversight