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Democratic lawmakers reintroduce Protecting America’s Workers Act


Photo: bulgn/vectorstock

Washington — House Democrats once again are seeking to expand OSHA coverage to state and local government employees and increase monetary penalties for “high gravity” OSHA violations.

Sponsored by Reps. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), the Protecting America’s Workers Act – reintroduced April 28, Workers Memorial Day – would also reinstate the “Volks” rule. That would allow OSHA to cite employers for recordkeeping violations within 5½ years after an incident, instead of six months. The rule was repealed by a Congressional Review Act resolution, signed by former President Donald Trump, in April 2017.

Other provisions include:

  • Authorizing felony penalties against employers “who knowingly commit OSHA violations that result in death or serious bodily injury.” Those penalties could extend to corporate officers and directors.
  • Requiring OSHA to investigate all cases of death and serious injuries that occur within a place of employment.
  • Updating obsolete consensus standards that were adopted by OSHA in the 1970s.
  • Strengthening whistleblower protections.
  • Expanding injury and illness records that employers have to report and maintain.
  • Mandating that employers correct hazardous conditions in a “timely manner.”

The “high-gravity” OSHA violations would include serious or willful violations that cause death or serious injury.

The bill, which has 12 co-sponsors, has been introduced a number of times in both the House and Senate over the past two decades. None of those previous bills has advanced out of committee. The first was introduced by the late Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy (D-MA) in April 2004.

“It’s fitting that we are reintroducing the Protecting America’s Workers Act on Workers Memorial Day and honor all who have died or been injured on the job,” Courtney said in a press release. “While the Occupational Safety and Health Act has helped protect Americans for generations, too many workers are still facing injury, illness or death. Congress must pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act to address the shortfalls in the law that have hamstrung further progress toward safer workplaces.”

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