Monday, May 12, 2008
The May 12, 2008 Issue of Inside OSHA (subscription required but free trial available) reports that much-needed OSHA reform may soon be on its way if Senator Kennedy has anything to say about it:
Senate labor committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-MA) plans to push separate sections of his OSHA reform bill this year if he cannot get the entire bill passed, a source close to the issue told Inside OSHA. The OSHA reform legislation was dormant until a couple of months ago when Kennedy began holding worker safety-related hearings.
The source told Inside OSHA that requiring stiffer penalties for worker health and safety violations is a huge priority for Kennedy.
During an April 29 hearing on OSHA’s outdated penalty structure, Kennedy heard suggestions from AFL-CIO, a former employee of the Department of Justice, and a victims’ representative group on how to strengthen the enforcement provisions in his bill, The Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAW Act) . . . .
The PAW Act would strengthen OSHA enforcement by imposing criminal sanctions and enhanced penalties for fatal injuries, and expanding rights for victims and survivors of workplace tragedies. The bill also would expand and strengthen “whistleblower” and anti-retaliation protections for workers who complain about hazards and injuries and expand the OSH Act’s scope to include public sector workers.
OSHA reform has been necessary for decades now. It is always amazing to me that workers continue to get sick and die in the workplace and there is not more outrage in this country about the current state of affairs. There also needs to be more uniformity in workplace safety protection for public employees, a group that makes up about one-fifth of our nation's workforce and continues to grow in proportion.
Just another reason why it is so important to elect a Democratic President who will sign a PAW Act-type bill.