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"OSHA hardening" bill aims to strengthen penalties, protect more workers, and increase whistleblower protections (4/30)

April 29, 2009
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Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee, led by U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), chair of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, introduced legislation April 23 that “would help the nation’s health and safety agencies to hold unscrupulous employers accountable for exposing their workers to preventable hazards,” according to a committee press release.

“It has been more than 30 years since the passage of the OSH Act, and it is badly in need of reform. While thousands of workers have been saved as a result of OSHA, 16 workers are killed and 11,200 workers are injured or made ill each and every day,” said Woolsey. “This legislation will strengthen OSHA by expanding coverage to millions of workers who are currently unprotected or inadequately protected, increasing civil and criminal penalties for those who violate the law, and by protecting those who blow the whistle on unsafe employer practices.”

“Beginning last Congress, we conducted a systematic examination of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and their ability to protect workers. We found that far too many employers were subject to a slap on the wrist or even let off the hook when they put their employee in danger,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the full committee. “This legislation is vital to improving the health and safety of American workers.”

Among other provisions, the bill would:

1) Apply federal safety standards to workers who are not currently covered, including federal, state, and local employees, and some private sector employees;

2) Protect workers who blow the whistle on unsafe workplace conditions;

3) Increase penalties against employers for repeated and willful violations of the law, including making felony charges available when an employer's repeated and willful violation of the law leads to a worker's death or serious injury; and

4) Give workers and their families the right to challenge reduction of fines and other penalties.

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