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New Congress, new workplace safety legislation

January 7, 2011

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Washington – A bill to update the Occupational Safety and Health Act was introduced by longtime worker safety advocate Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) on Jan. 5, the first day of the 112th Congress.

The Protecting America's Workers Act (H.R. 190) would amend the OSH Act to expand its coverage, increase protections for whistleblowers, and provide rights for victims and family members. Additionally, penalties would increase for some violations and adjust for inflation.

Woolsey introduced the bill in the previous Congress – (H.R. 2067). The occupational safety and health components of that bill were later folded into a mine safety improvement bill – the Robert C. Byrd Miner Safety and Health Act (H.R. 5663) – which passed out of committee but was never called for a vote before the full House. A version of that mine bill (H.R. 6495) stripped of the OSH components failed to garner enough votes to pass the full House this past December.

Recordkeeping

A bill (H.R. 128) introduced Jan. 5 by Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) would require the secretary of labor to revise the regulations regarding the reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses under the OSH Act.

OSHA is exploring the possibility of issuing a regulation that would modernize its reporting system for injuries. The proposed rule would modify the agency's annual injury and illness survey standard (1904.41) by expanding OSHA's authority to collect and release injury and illness data. As such, the agency believes injury and illness data collection would be more efficient and timely. Currently, both annual fatal and nonfatal injury and illness data is released nearly two years after the fact.

At deadline, additional details on the bills were not available, as the full text of the legislation had not been released.

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