BOSTON— On March 1, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) applauded the Massachusetts legislature for passing legislation that provides all state and municipal workers with the same protections provided under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
Sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton), S.2167, An Act to further define standards of employee safety, ensures safe and healthy working conditions for all state and municipal workers. Senator Friedman voted in favor of the bill when the Senate passed the bill in October.
OSHA, passed in 1970, made it an option to provide occupational safety protections to public employees. Twenty-six states in the U.S. have laws that provide at least OSHA-level protections for public employees before an incident occurs: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, the Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming – but not Massachusetts.
“Our public employees are often exposed to hazardous working conditions that result in needless injury,” said Senator Friedman, member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “This legislation is a commonsense measure that will provide necessary health and safety protections for all state and municipal employees in the workplace. I’m proud of the legislature for passing this long-overdue bill and for making worker safety a top priority.”
The bill requires the Governor to appoint a Municipal Occupational Health and Safety Subcommittee to the Occupational Health and Safety Hazard Advisory Board to assist in the bill’s implementation. The subcommittee, in consultation with the board, will evaluate injury and illness data; recommend training and implementation of safety and health measures; monitor the effectiveness of safety and health programs; and determine whether additional measures are necessary to protect the safety and health of employees.
Each week, an average of 28 municipal workers suffer injuries serious enough to be out of work for five or more days, according to a conservative estimate from the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA). Yet, except for the executive branch, state law does not explicitly specify OSHA as the baseline safety standard for all public employees. This legislation implements such protections.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 752,600 injury and illness cases were reported in 2015 among the approximately 18.4 million state and local government workers in the U.S. – for example, elementary and secondary schools, hospitals, and police or fire protection – resulting in a rate of 5.1 cases per 100 full-time workers. Approximately 4 in 5 injuries and illnesses reported in the public sector occurred among local government workers in 2015, resulting in an injury and illness rate of 5.6 cases per 100 full-time workers. Public sector workers accounted for 9 percent of all occupational fatalities.
The bill now moves to the Governor’s desk for approval.