House Democrats reintroduce bill to boost workplace safety, health laws
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, reintroduced the Protecting America's Workers Act. The act, which would strengthen penalties and increase whistleblower protections, has been introduced several times in the House and Senate in recent years but has failed to gather the support needed to move forward.
"It has been more than 30 years since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and it is badly in need of reform," Woolsey said. "While thousands of workers have been saved as a result of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 16 workers are killed and 11,200 workers are injured or made ill each and every day."
The provisions of the legislation would:
- Apply federal safety standards to those not currently covered. This includes federal, state and local employees, and some private sector employees.
- Protect workers who blow the whistle on unsafe workplace conditions.
- Increase penalties against employers for repeated and willful violations. This increase would allow felony charges when an employer's repeated and willful violation of the law leads to a worker's death or serious injury.
- Give workers and their families the right to challenge a reduction of OSHA fines and other penalties. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the legislation is vital to improving the health and safety of American workers.
"Beginning last Congress, we conducted a systematic examination of the federal OSHA and [its] ability to protect workers," he said. "We found that far too many employers were subject to a slap on the wrist or even let off the hook when they put their employees in danger."
Proponents of the bill believe with the Obama administration it now stands a greater chance of making it into law.
May 21, 2009
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