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Labor Department Taking Over Workplace Safety Oversight from Three States

WASHINGTON, DC The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it is moving to relieve Arizona, South Carolina and Utah of their workplace safety oversight due to failure to adopt, at minimum, the federal COVID-19 workplace safety plans for healthcare.

The plans, released by OSHA as an emergency temporary standard, require personal protective equipment, social distancing and other safety measures for workers at health care facilities that care for people with COVID-19. This includes hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and even home healthcare. It also requires paid sick time for employees who contract COVID-19, need to get vaccinated or are dealing with vaccine side effects.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said in a statement that the Industrial Commission of Arizona had already notified OSHA that certain Arizona laws already complied with the emergency temporary standard but requested waivers of certain portions of the standard. OSHA rejected the request and demanded immediate action to reach full compliance and Governor Ducey says the ICA would “pursue the rulemaking process, which allows for and encourages public input, to review the mandate.”

Emily H. Farr, director of South Carolina’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, stated that South Carolina’s plan is “built on a foundation of passion and commitment to the safety of the state's employees as well as a strong partnership with employers, industry and community leaders, and interest groups and associations to ensure the same. This commitment and partnership have proven effective as South Carolina has consistently had one of the lowest injury and illness rates in the nation with the latest rate of 2.4 for 2019. This is below the national average of 2.8."

Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox said in a statement that they had already notified OSHA that the emergency temporary standard would place an unfair burden on the healthcare industry and that Utah does not have regulatory authority to require employers to pay their employees sick leave. "While we have not refused to adopt standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, we will ask once again for an opportunity to engage with the Biden administration about our legitimate concerns,” he said.

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