Originally Published: April 11, 2016 6 a.m.
Concerned that perhaps local contractors and manufacturers were being unfairly treated by Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH), Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) executive director Sandy Griffis requested that a representative from ADOSH host an educational session in Prescott.
“We were all fearful,” Griffis said.
She said the safety enforcement organization has been working its way through town, fining many unassuming contractors and manufacturers.
“One would think they would educate and inform first and then inspect and fine if you are not following the rules.” Griffis said. “It is almost as if ‘because they can’ and they are entitled to fine.”
Responding to her request, ADOSH sent its director, Bill Warren, up from Phoenix to give a talk on Friday, April 8. For two hours, he went over how the safety enforcement organization operates, what its top fines are for and what its primary mission is.
“We have similar missions,” Warren said. “My mission is to ensure that the most valuable assets — which are our workers — are protected. That’s a shared responsibility.”
The organization’s average penalty amount for a citation is about $1,100, Warren said.
To avoid a conflict of interest, none of that money ever feeds back into ADOSH. Instead, all of the collected ADOSH penalties go into the state’s general fund.
Fifty percent of the organization’s enforcement is funded by the state, but that portion comes from the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA), which is funded by a tax on workers’ compensation premiums. The other 50 percent of its funding comes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — the federal version of ADOSH.
The number one citation ADOSH gives out is for a lack of proper fall protection during construction activities. Since OSHA forced ADOSH to change its standard for requiring homebuilders to implement fall protection for workers in construction activities from heights of 15 or more feet to six or more feet last year, Warren said contractors have found it difficult to adjust.
“All contractors are struggling with it right now,” Warren said.
Fall protection may include such things as nets, guardrails and body harnesses that are clipped into overhanging zip lines.
Because fall protection is considered a high priority on the federal level, ADOSH has taken a hard line on the issue as well, classifying it along with excavation work as an “emphasis program”.
This allows ADOSH inspection officers to probe a job site for the simple reason that workers are clearly excavating or working from heights greater than six feet.
Otherwise, those officers need probable cause to inspect a job site, Warren said.
Probable causes listed by Warren included a complaint from an employee or any other concerned citizen, a referral of any kind or if an employee is significantly injured or dies.
“It’s not arbitrary,” Warren said.
When it comes to manufacturing, if an inspector looks at the outside of the building and can’t tell anything is in violation, then the inspector cannot barge into the facility, Warren said. The exception to this rule is if the company’s work is considered high hazard manufacturing, which ADOSH keeps a list of.
This is what happened to Ty Smith, general manager of Yavapai Block, which manufactures such things as concrete block, bricks and stepping-stones. Last month, an ADOSH inspector showed up at Yavapai Block’s manufacturing facility unannounced for a random inspection.
“I spent six hours with him while he looked at every single aspect of the work environment,” Smith said.
At the conclusion of the inspection, Smith was told that there are a few potential violations.
He is currently waiting to hear back on what the verdict is and what he may be penalized for.
“There are like 10,000 OSHA regulations,” Smith said. “It’s impossible for us to know everything. You try to do things to the best of your knowledge, but there are so many rules that you cannot keep up with them, especially when you’re a small business. When they come to your door, there are going to be fines levied.”
Now that Griffis knows ADOSH offers a number of free programs on safety in the workplace and is willing to bring those programs up to the Prescott area by request, she intends on taking advantage of that opportunity.
“I’m going to have them coming up here all the time,” Griffis said.