State laws

Massachusetts House passes bill to extend OSHA protections to public workers

Photo: KenWiedemann/iStockphoto

Boston — A measure to extend OSHA protections to an estimated 400,000 Massachusetts public employees, including those in state and local governments, was unanimously approved by the state House on March 1.

The bill (HB 3952), a reconciled version of similar legislation that the House and Senate passed in October, now heads to the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker (R) for signing. It would go into effect Sept. 1.

Although OSHA covers private-sector workers, state and local entities may enact their own safety rules for public employees. A 2014 Massachusetts law extended OSHA coverage to executive branch employees, but the coverage did not include city, town, higher education or authority workers.

If signed into law, Baker would be required to appoint an occupational health and safety advisory board to “evaluate injury and illness data, recommend training and implementation of safety and health measures, monitor the effectiveness of safety and health programs and determine where additional resources are needed to protect the safety and health of public employees.”

On March 5, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health posted a piece on its website lauding the progression of the legislation, which it called “a huge boost to the health and safety of municipal workers in Massachusetts.”

“No longer will public workers be treated differently than their private-sector brothers and sisters under law,” the article states. “Gone will be policies that failed to clearly define what measures public agencies should employ to keep workers safe. … We have been working up to this moment since 2007. If there was ever a victory to celebrate, this would be it.”

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