U.S. Department of Labor warns 3 GOP states of COVID regulations

On Tuesday, the Biden administration threatened to strip three Republican-controlled states of their right to exercise their own workplace safety, as they refused to pass regulations to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19.

Threats have been sent to Arizona, South Carolina and Utah as the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration prepares to enact much more far-reaching vaccination and testing regulations affecting 80 million Americans. In nearly half of the states, he will have to rely on government employment regulators.

OSHA officials say Arizona, South Carolina and Utah are failing to live up to their promises to enforce labor standards, which are at least as good as those adopted by the federal government.

This is a rule requiring personal protective equipment, social distancing and other safety measures for healthcare workers who care for people with COVID-19. It also requires paid sick leave for employees who have contracted COVID-19, need vaccinations, or are dealing with vaccine side effects.

“The agency has no hesitation in using all of our resources to protect healthcare workers from known health hazards,” said Jim Frederick, acting assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

OSHA has relinquished its authority to enforce health and safety laws and regulations in the private sector in 22 states, including Arizona, South Carolina and Utah. In return, states must enact regulations that are as effective or better than federal regulations to protect workers.

OSHA officials said they will take the first step towards removing these powers, which all three states have enjoyed since the 1980s, and restoring jurisdiction for federal law enforcement agencies in the health sector or others.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducy, a Republican, called the move “nothing more than a political gimmick and a desperate takeover of power.”

Trevor Luckey, a spokesman for the Arizona Industry Commission, said the agency has begun a rule-making process. While the state could pass emergency rules that go into effect quickly, he said department leaders prefer a more transparent process that allows public comment.

He accused OSHA officials of taking two months to tell the state that existing wage and hour laws are not good enough.

“We are disappointed that Federal OSHA has decided to take this step against our very successful state OSHA program,” said Emily Farr, head of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, in a statement.

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox and Lieutenant Gov. Deirdre Henderson said in a statement that federal regulations would burden healthcare providers. They reject the claim that their own rules are not as good as the federal ones.

“Despite today’s communication, we continue to welcome the opportunity to further clarify our position and recommendations,” said Cox and Henderson.

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