State laws

Massachusetts extends safety protections for state workers

Boston – Massachusetts has bolstered occupational safety and health protections for state workers as part of a law that also will increase the minimum wage to $11 over three years.

Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed the bill June 26 in front of legislators, business leaders, worker advocates and others. With the new law, Massachusetts extends protections to about 67,000 executive branch employees, including nurses, welders, highway workers and others who frequently confront on-the-job risks.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 established workplace safety standards to cover private and federal employees but made it optional for states to extend the protections to state employees.

As part of the bill, Massachusetts also will create an occupational safety and health advisory board. Among other duties, the board will analyze injury and illness data, recommend training and implementation of safety and health measures, and monitor safety and health programs for their effectiveness.

An Executive Order issued by Patrick in 2009 established the Massachusetts Employee Safety and Health Advisory Committee, which studied ways to implement prevention standards and to trim costs that state agencies pay for worker illnesses and injuries.