Report: State safety inspectors hard to keep, among least experi - KPTV - FOX 12

Report: State safety inspectors hard to keep, among least experienced

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How safe is it to work here in Arizona? A new report shows things can be better when it comes to the state safety inspection program.

A new Government Accountability Office report says Arizona is having a tough time keeping safety inspectors on the payroll and they are among the least experienced in the country.

The fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX that killed 15 people hadn't had a federal safety inspection since 1985. Here in the Valley, state safety inspectors were on scene investigating Eagle Roofing Products a few weeks ago after the body of a 30-year-old man was pulled out of a huge metal hopper. He was buried under tons of sand.

"It's shocking and shameful actually for this to be happening," said David Mendoza, a political action representative for the public workers union AFSCME.

Arizona is among 22 states with its own state-run workplace safety and health program. It's monitored by OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

According to th audit, the state currently has 18 safety inspectors on staff. But in 2011, there were only 11 on staff.  The report also brings up another issue. More than half of them have less than five years of experience.

"It is impossible for the number of inspectors that are on the pay roll to inspect the business in Arizona. It's just physically impossible to do that," said Mendoza.

He says safety inspectors are at the mercy of the state legislature when it comes to their budget, which affects safety all around.

"Employees should not be forced to choose between a paycheck and a safe and healthy workplace," he said.

According to an Industrial Commission of Arizona report, 65 people died on the job in 2011. That's a decrease of 15.6 percent from 2010 when 77 people died on the job. The audit also finds that inspectors did not meet its 2011 goal of 1,400 inspections and only conducted 913. However, inspectors exceeded their 2012 goal by completing 1,138 inspections, more than 100 percent of the goal.

A representative for the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health sent CBS 5 News a statement regarding the report:

"The priority of ADOSH is to assist and ensure employers provide a safe work place.  The Government Accountability Office report states the situation as it currently stands and underscores challenges faced by all state plans for quite some time.  While the report states that ADOSH did not meet its inspectional goals in 2011, we note that it also states that ADOSH exceeded its 2012 goals. ADOSH effectiveness in safety and health is further demonstrated by a 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing that Arizona enjoys injury and illness rates below the national average."

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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