Wednesday, November 8, 2023
David Yamada (Suffolk) has just posted on SSRN his article (56 Suffolk L. Rev. 393 (2023)) Expanding Coverage of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act to Protect Workers from Severe Psychological Harm. Here's the abstract:
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was designed to safeguard workers from hazardous working conditions that can cause serious physical harm and death. Since becoming law, the ongoing toll of physical injuries and fatalities at work reminds us of the compelling need for the OSH Act and its many state equivalents to protect workers. In addition, various research and public education initiatives are now spotlighting workplace hazards that severely threaten the psychological health of today’s employees. Toxic work environments generally, the extraordinary workplace stressors prompted by the COVID pandemic, and workplace bullying and abuse, among other concerns, have underscored the human costs of trauma, fear, anxiety, and stress. Against this backdrop, this essay encourages a needed conversation about extending the regulatory reach of the OSH Act to cover severe psychological harms at work and to anticipate the impact of added enforcement responsibilities on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Most significantly, it will examine two potential policy responses: First, applying the current OSH Act to workplace bullying, pursuant to a theory first advanced by Professor Susan Harthill; and second, amending the OSH Act to expressly cover workplace hazards that may cause severe psychological harm.