October 5, 2017

OSHA protection bill clears Senate

Flickr/Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism
A Senate bill requires all state employees to be covered under the same safety standards that protect private workers.

All state and municipal employees would have the same workplace protections as their private-sector peers under a bill that cleared the Senate Wednesday.

The bill (S 2167), originally filed by Sen. Marc Pacheco, requires all public employees in Massachusetts be covered under the same occupational safety standards as the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA, passed in 1970, mandated protections for private sector workers and gave states the options of extending them to the public sector.

An average of 28 municipal workers per week suffer injuries serious enough to be out of work for five days or more, according to Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health executive director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, who cheered the bill's passage as "a critical step."

"Public employees repair our roads, remove our waste, care for our disabled and more, exposing themselves to proven hazards that cause needless injury," Sugerman-Brozan said.

Sen. Jason Lewis, who co-chairs the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, said before the bill was voted on that the fatality rate for OSHA-covered private sector workers had fallen since 1970, leaving "no question" the law's provisions have "had a dramatic impact."

OSHA-level protections were extended to Massachusetts executive branch workers in 2014. Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry said it "doesn't make sense" that other public employees were left out.

A similar bill passed the Senate unanimously last year and received initial approval in the House, where no further action was then taken. The Senate approved this year's bill on a voice vote

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