WASHINGTON, DC -- Reps. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), chairman of the House Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee, announced legislation today to extend important worker health and safety protections to public sector employees.
The Fairness for State and Local Workers Act will widen the Occupational Safety and Health Act's protections to state, county and municipal employees. Public employees are currently not covered under federal OSHA protections. Although states may provide coverage under a federally approved program with matching funds, 26 states have chosen not to participate.
"For far too long thousands of state, county and city workers have not been covered by the workplace health and safety standards that protect private sector employees. That is why today, I am proud to introduce the Fairness for State and Local Workers Act, which will fix this problem by expanding worker health and safety protections to the public sector workers," said Rep. Andrews. "This plan simply requires all workplaces abide by the same safety and health standards and provides public employees the protections everyone deserves."
A report released today by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board on a fatal workplace accident in Florida highlights the need to extend important safety protections to public sector workplaces. A January 11, 2006 explosion at the Bethune Point Wastewater Treatment Plant -- owned and operated by the City of Daytona Beach, Florida -- fatally burned two municipal workers; a third worker suffered grave injuries. The CSB concluded that the plant's safety standards were inadequate. Florida does not require public employers to follow OSHA standards. The Board called on the Florida legislature and governor to require workplace safety protections for Florida's state, county, and municipal employees.
The Occupational and Safety Health Act protects workers by requiring employers to provide their workers with an environment free from dangers to their health and safety. OSHA issues basic standards that employers must follow. It also allows employees have to file a complaint and receive an OSHA inspection without fear of employer retaliation.