Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Congressman Major Owens (D-N.Y.) have introduced legislation that they claim will strengthen provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Features of the "Protecting American's Workers Act" include:

  • Changing the maximum penalty any employer can receive for causing the death of a worker from six months in jail and a $10,000 fine to a felony offense providing up to ten years in prison. For a second offense, the maximum term would be 20 years.

  • OSHA coverage would be extended to millions of workers currently exempt from the agency's rules and regs, including public employees in a number of states and localities, flight attendants and other transportation workers, and a number of federal workers, including those in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

  • Whistleblower protections would be strengthened for any worker who reports safety and health violations of an employer.

  • OSHA would be required to investigate any workplace incident resulting in a fatality or the hospitalization of two or more employees.

  • Family members of workers killed on the job would be granted greater participation rights in OSHA's investigations and penalty negotiations.

  • OSHA would be prohibited from downgrading willful citations in worker fatalities to "unclassified" ones.

  • Employers would be required by OSHA regulation to cover the costs of personal protective equipment for their employees.