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Federal Government Says Arizona Not Living Up to OSHA Obligations

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) expressed concern that Arizona is “either unable or unwilling to maintain its commitment to provide a program for worker safety and health protection.” Twenty-eight U.S. states and territories operate OSHA-approved state plans. The federal government allows states to do so provided the state’s rules are “at least as effective” as OSHA’s. The federal government has the power to revoke a state plan but reportedly has never done so against a state’s wishes.

In 2014, OSHA first initiated the process to revoke Arizona’s oversight of its construction industry. The government halted the process when Arizona agreed to upgrade its rules to cover workplace injuries from falls. For OSHA to initiate proceedings against a state indicates that it considers the health and safety of Arizona’s workers to be seriously endangered. OSHA says Arizona lacks adequate maximum penalty levels, occupational safety and health standards, and temporary programs for COVID-19 hazards, particularly for health care workers.

In October 2021, OSHA warned Arizona, South Carolina, and Utah that it would revoke their plans unless the states made changes. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey responded by calling the warning a “political stunt and desperate power grab.” A woman, who volunteers with the Arizona Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health and is an active union leader, told the press that workers need the “feds to step in.” She asserts the state is too cozy with industry. Arizona’s current OSHA plan covers all public and private sector workers; the federal government plan will not apply to public sector employees. The federal government’s proposed plan is currently open to public comment.