‘Protecting America’s Workers Act’ Must Protect Public Sector Workers, ASSE Tells Committee Chair
Des Plaines, IL (November 30, 2009) — The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is urging Representative Lynn C. Woolsey, chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections to keep public sector occupational safety and health coverage provisions in the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA), as currently more than eight million workers are without coverage.
In his letter to Rep. Woolsey, ASSE President C. Christopher Patton, CSP, noted that more than eight million public sector –state and municipal workers — are not provided federal occupational safety and health protections due to the fact that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) only requires such coverage in states with their own occupational safety and health plans.
“ASSE supports providing all public sector employees with federal OSH protections,” Patton said. “We strongly urge you to keep the provision that would provide this coverage in the PAWA bill now under consideration. Don’t turn your back on the workers who deserve this coverage.”
As noted in the letter, this is a key concern of ASSE members. An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board (CSB) into the 2006 Daytona Beach municipal water treatment facility that took the lives of two workers found Florida’s lack of OSH coverage for its public sector workers contributed to those deaths. In response, ASSE Florida members led ASSE to provide the resources needed to help pass legislation in 2008 establishing a task force charged with determining how to best protect Florida’s workers that reinforced the need to provide the state’s public sector employers to meet federal OSH Act standards – without any enforcement provisions or resources to support the requirement. A bill requiring these protections failed to pass in 2009. The bill passed the House, Patton notes, but not the Senate due to Florida’s budget crisis.
“The reality is that the only effective way full public sector worker OSH coverage will be achieved any time soon is through your leadership at this unique time in history when Congress is in a position to consider reforms to the OSH Act,” Patton said. “Public sector workers’ lives depend on your unwavering commitment to their safety and health. We don’t want to see more lives lost when Congress has the power to protect these workers.”
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. ASSE’s more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. Go to www.asse.org for more information and a full copy of the ASSE comments on the rule.