News Brief: Senate passes bill to protect state, municipal workers

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By Thursday, Oct 5 News

Senate passes bill to protect state, municipal workers

Boston — Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, announced Wednesday that the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation to provide all state and municipal workers with the same protections provided under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act.

S.2167, “An Act to further define standards of employee safety,” ensures safe and healthy working conditions for all state and municipal workers. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, was reviewed and recommended favorably by the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means prior to Wednesday’s debate.

OSHA, passed in 1970, made it an option to provide occupational safety protections to public employees. Today 26 states in the nation have laws that provide at least OSHA-level protections for public employees before an incident occurs. 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, Massachusetts state law does not explicitly specify OSHA as the baseline safety standard for all public employees. This legislation implements such protections.

The bill also requires Gov. Charlie Baker to appoint a Municipal Occupational Health and Safety Subcommittee to the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Board to assist in the act’s implementation. In consultation with the board, the subcommittee 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.

The legislation will now go to the House of Representatives for review and consideration.

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