Democratic lawmakers in Washington are once again making a push to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act – legislation that has been introduced to Congress several times without being passed.
Among other things, the Act gives OSHA tools to ensure that employers promptly correct hazardous working conditions, protect workers from retaliation when they blow the whistle on unsafe working conditions, and hold employers accountable for violations that cause illness, death or serious injury to workers.
Having being first introduced in 2004, the bill has since been defeated 16 times.
The latest version was introduced on the ninth anniversary of the Kleen Energy power plant explosion that killed six workers in Middletown, Connecticut. It is sponsored by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), whose friend, Ronald Crabb, was among those killed in the explosion. Courtney said the OSHAct had not been meaningfully updated since it was passed in 1970.
“Every day, 14 employees go to work and never come home to their families due to fatal on-the-job injuries. The OSHAct made great strides in protecting American workers, but since it was enacted the American workplace has modernized and diversified.”
“The law should keep up with the realities that workers face on the job today. Our bill is focused on updates and compliance, not on petty, punitive measures against employers, and will ensure that today’s workforce is empowered and protected by our nation’s chief worker safety law.”
Congresswoman Alma Adams, who is one of 28 democrats supporting the bill, said it was time the OSHAct be modernized.
“For too long, employers in some of our most dangerous occupations have been able to cut corners and not face true accountability for keeping safe and healthy workspaces. The Protecting America’s Workers Act would change this dynamic, improving crucial recordkeeping, increasing monetary penalties for unscrupulous employers, and putting American workers first.”
The Protecting America’s Workers Act 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, wilful, or repeat violation is being contested.
- Reinstate an employer’s ongoing obligation to maintain accurate records of work-related illness and injuries.
- Improve whistleblower protections for workers who call attention to unsafe working conditions.
- Update obsolete consensus standards that were incorporated by reference when OSHA was first enacted in 1970.
- Deter high gravity violations by providing authority for increased civil monetary penalties for wilful and serious violations that cause death or serious bodily injury.
- Require employers to report injury and illness records to OSHA to provide the agency with data to effectively target unsafe workplaces.
- 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.
- Require OSHA to investigate all cases of death and serious injuries that occur within a place of employment.
- Give 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.