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Arizona OSHA office may have inexperienced inspectors

A recent federal report revealed that ADOSH, Arizona's equivalent of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has an unusually high number of relatively inexperienced safety inspectors. Of the office's 17 inspectors, less than half have been doing the work for more than five years.

Among other things, these safety inspectors have the duty to go to Arizona businesses after work accidents and try to identify and correct conditions that create an unsafe working environment so that future accidents do not occur. Their investigations are important work; while workers' compensation is available to reimburse an employee for lost wages and medical expenses in the event of an accident, a workplace injury still creates a serious disruption for both the employee and their family.

However, some claim that the relatively high turnover among safety inspectors has led to inadequate job site inspections. One person, a spokesman for a national union, said that it is "common" that workers get seriously hurt or killed after an inspector visits a plant but finds no violations. Some attribute this to the collective lack of experience among Arizona's safety inspectors.

The interim director of ADOSH disagrees, saying that, in reality, the department often transfers inspectors to another task. The director says that in addition to inspections, ADOSH also offers a proactive service in which an employer can voluntarily seek a safety consultation with an ADOSH official. On the whole, the interim director believes that ADOSH is offering employers and employees valuable and informed insight that improves this state's workplace conditions.

Nevertheless, experts conclude that high turnover is a problem both in ADOSH and in other state-level occupational safety programs. The government oftentimes has a hard time retaining its inspectors when private companies seek to hire them as in-house safety experts. Because of the resulting turnover, it is hard for these state programs to be proactive in visiting different worksites.

Source: Arizona Daily Star, "GAO: high turnover among AZ safety agents," Mary Shin, May 1, 2013

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