BOSTON — Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Senate unanimously passed legislation that provides all state and municipal workers with the same protections provided under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
OSHA, passed by Congress in 1970, made it an option to provide occupational safety protections to public employees. Massachusetts remains in the minority of states that do not provide at least OSHA-level protections for public employees before an incident occurs. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 4 in 5 injuries and illnesses reported in the public sector occurred among local government workers in 2015.
“The bill ensures safe and healthy working conditions for all state and municipal workers,” said Senator Moore. “It’s high time we closed the existing gap and bring Massachusetts in line with twenty-six other states that provide protections for these employees.”
“Worker safety must be a top priority,” said Senator Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton) who filed the legislation. “Providing safe and healthy work conditions for all of Massachusetts workers, across all sectors, should be the least we do. Extending these protections to public employees helps them return home to their families, and we must make sure they continue to do so.”
The bill also 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 act’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.
“Public employees repair our roads, remove our waste, care for our disabled and more, exposing themselves to proven hazards that cause needless injury,” said Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, executive director of MassCOSH, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. “Each week, an average of twenty-eight municipal workers suffer injuries serious enough to be out of work for five days or more. Today, the Senate has taken a critical step forward in ensuring that safety measures and systems are in place to protect these hard-working individuals and now it’s time for the House to do the same.”
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. 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.
To continue tracking the legislation, S.2167, please visit the Legislature’s website, www.malegislature.gov.