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Arizona Commission Given Warning By Federal Officials To Cease Employer Penalty Reductions

Arizona Commission Given Warning By Federal Officials To Cease Employer Penalty Reductions

The Industrial Commission of Arizona’s reduction in employer penalties regarding workers’ deaths and injuries has been deemed non-permissible by federal officials. A federal investigation led by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) officials found that the commission’s actions violated the laws of Arizona. The commission was warned by the officials to cease their reductions of employer penalties immediately.

OSHA officials investigated the commission after receiving a complaint in December from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. According to the Arizona Capital Times, the “agency had been monitoring state commission meetings for months previously.”

The monitoring of the state commission paid off. OSHA officials reported the Arizona workplace safety agency’s practice of reducing employer penalties regarding worker’s injuries and death to be “operating outside of its legal authority by reclassifying violations” and therefore “must cease altering the classification of ADOSH’s violations.”

Industrial Commission Chairman Dale Schultz disagreed with the proceedings of OSHA, claiming OSHA’s approach to be ineffective and that the commission’s practice of reducing employer penalties was not only legal but beneficial to Arizona. However, a record of the reduced penalties shows the necessity of the OSHA officials’ investigation.

In 2013, the average number of days of work missed by Americans due to occupational injuries was a total of eight. But for some, these injuries may lead to disability or death. In 2012, 19 firefighters were killed during a wildfire near Yarnell after which the Arizona Commission reduced $560,000 in the Forestry Division’s fines.

Many other fines such as these have been reduced or erased by the Arizona Commission. Such reductions, according to safety consultant Peter Dooley, sends the message that “workers’ lives are not valued.” The Arizona Commission has since ceased its penalty reductions.

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