House lawmakers reintroduce Protecting America’s Workers Act
Washington — More than two dozen Democratic lawmakers once again are trying to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act – legislation that has been introduced many times in both houses of Congress over the past 15 years.
None of the bills has made it past the committee stage in 16 previous tries, beginning with an attempt by the late Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy (D-MA) in April 2004.
The latest version (H.R. 1074), sponsored by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and 28 other legislators, was introduced Feb. 7 – the ninth anniversary of the Kleen Energy power plant explosion that killed six workers in Middletown, CT.
This bill would reverse the recent rollback of OSHA’s electronic recordkeeping rule and reinstate the “Volks” rule, allowing the agency to cite employers for recordkeeping violations within five-and-a-half years of an incident occurring instead of six months. The “Volks” rule was repealed by a Congressional Review Act resolution, signed by President Donald Trump on April 4, 2017.
PAWA also would:
- Increase maximum and minimum civil penalties for certain categories of violations.
- Allow for felony charges – instead of only misdemeanors – for individuals or organizations that knowingly commit OSHA violations that result in death or serious bodily harm.
- Expand OSHA’s General Duty Clause to include not only direct-hire employees but all others working in any establishment where the employer controls workplace conditions.
- Require OSHA to investigate cases of death or serious injury at all workplaces covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
- Mandate that employers abate hazardous conditions while a serious, willful or repeat citation is contested. Currently, employers do not have to abate hazards in those situations.
- Allow victims’ families the opportunity to meet with OSHA investigators, receive copies of citations and make statements before a settlement negotiation.
- Enhance whistleblower protections.
- Update consensus standards that were incorporated by reference when the OSH Act was signed.
- Expand OSHA coverage to state, county, municipal and U.S. government employees.
- Allow the Department of Labor to take over enforcement authority in State Plans that fail to meet “minimum requirements needed to protect workers’ safety and health, as recommended by” the Government Accountability Office.
“Every day, 14 employees go to work and never come home to their families due to fatal on-the-job injuries.” Courtney said in a Feb. 7 press release. “The OSH Act made great strides in protecting American workers, but since it was enacted, the American workplace has modernized and diversified. The law should keep up with the realities that workers face on the job today. Our bill is focused on updates and compliance, not on petty, punitive measures against employers, and will ensure that today’s workforce is empowered and protected by our nation’s chief worker safety law.”