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.