ASSE urges lawmakers to keep public sector provisions in safety bill
In early 2009, Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee reintroduced the Protecting America's Workers Act. Lawmakers say the act would strengthen penalties and increase whistleblower protections. The legislation has been introduced several times in recent years but has failed to gather the support needed to move forward.
In a letter to Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, ASSE President C. Christopher Patton noted that more than 8 million public sector -- state and municipal workers -- are not provided federal occupational safety and health protections because the Occupational Safety and Health 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 Protecting America's Workers Act bill now under consideration. Don't turn your back on the workers who deserve this coverage."
Patton said that Florida's lack of occupational safety and health coverage contributed to the death of two workers at a municipal water treatment facility in Daytona Beach in 2006. In response, Patton said the ASSE provided the resources needed to help pass legislation in 2008 that established a task force charged with determining how to best protect Florida's workers. The task force, he said, reinforced the need to require the state's public sector employers to meet federal OSH Act standards. A bill requiring those protections failed to pass in 2009.
"The reality is that the only effective way full public sector worker occupational safety and health 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."
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January 14, 2010
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