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House Democrats Introduce Bill to Strengthen Worker Health & Safety Law

02/08/2017
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Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee reintroduced the Protecting America's Workers Act, legislation that would strengthen and modernize the OSH Act of 1970. The bill would also give OSHA tools to ensure that employers correct hazardous working conditions, protect whistleblowers and hold employers accountable for violations that cause death or serious injury to workers. 

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) is the lead sponsor of the legislation. "The benefits of ensuring a safe and healthy workplace are not just confined to the facility’s property--local communities also have a major stake in the safety of these workplaces," he says, adding that "too many workers are still injured, falling ill or even killed when working in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the top Democrat on the committee, agrees. “The fact remains that penalties for harming workers are often dismissed as the cost of doing business for some employers. Congress needs to increase these outdated penalties and give real teeth to the law, so that workers can remain safe while trying to earn a living.”

According to the bill's sponsors, the proposed legislation would:

  • Expand OSHA coverage to state and local government employees in 25 states, and broaden OSHA coverage to include federal employees.
  • Mandate that employers correct hazardous conditions while a citation for a serious, willful or repeat violation is being contested.
  • Improve whistleblower protection for workers who call attention to unsafe working conditions.
  • Update obsolete consensus standards that were incorporated by reference when the OSH Act was first enacted in 1970.
  • Deter "high gravity" violations by providing authority for increased civil monetary penalties for willful and serious violations that cause death or serious bodily injury.
  • Authorize felony penalties against employers who knowingly commit OSHA violations that result in death or serious bodily injury and extend such penalties to corporate officers and directors. Criminal penalties are misdemeanors under current law.
  • Require OSHA to investigate all cases of death and serious injury that occur within a place of employment.
  • Establish rights for families of workers who were killed on the job by giving families the right to meet with OSHA investigators, receive copies of citations and to have an opportunity to make a statement before any settlement negotiations.

 

 

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