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Jerome, Gibson, Stewart, Stevenson, Engle & Runbeck, P.C.
Helping Injured Workers In Arizona Since 1973

Arizona commission lowers fines after work accidents

Federal officials have recently issued a warning to the commission responsible for overseeing Arizona's workplace safety agency, stating that some of its practices are unlawful and should be ceased immediatelyy. Specifically, the letter from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is concerned with the Industrial Commission of Arizona's lowering of fines placed on companies after preventable work accidents that result in worker injury or death. The commission oversees the Arizona division of OSHA, which regulates safety in the workplace under an approved federal plan, but these unlawful practices could jeopardize its ability to run its own safety program.

After a complaint in Dec. 2016 from a workplace safety group, the federal agency investigated. Arizona's OSHA director said the investigation found that the commission was lowering fines arbitrarily without following guidelines. Its practice of reclassifying violations meant that the commission was operating outside its legal authority.

The workplace safety group who complained to OSHA was concerned by the commission's practice of allowing employers to request their fines and violation levels be lowered after they exposed workers to hazardous conditions. A local safety consultant fears that repeatedly reducing fines and downgrading violations for employers demonstrates that employees' lives are not valued as much as profit. There is also the fear that lowered fines means less of a deterrent for employers to forego necessary safety precautions.

Arizona employers have these precautions and regulations to ensure that workers are as safe on the job as possible. When work accidents do occur, employers face investigations by OSHA to determine whether the accidents were avoidable and whether future accidents can be prevented. Being injured on the job, even when the accident does not prove fatal, can be catastrophic for workers and their families. Thankfully, when workplace accidents do occur, an attorney with experience in workers' compensation cases can help injured employees fight for full benefits to help ease the financial burden and resultant stress.

Source: mohavedailynews.com, "Feds warn state over fines: OSHA: Commission arbitrarily lowering workplace safety penalties for firms", May 17, 2017

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