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Massachusetts Lawmakers Considering Bill That Would Extend Federal Health and Safety Laws to Public Sector Employees

Massachusetts lawmakers are now considering whether to extend protections like those enumerated in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (“OSH Act”) to public sector workers in the state. HB1756 and SB 999, “An Act to further define Standards of Employee Safety,” would clearly require all public agencies operating in Massachusetts to comply with federal health and safety regulations. According to testimony provided by both employees and Massachusetts labor advocates, current gaps in safety laws result in hundreds of municipal worker injuries and fatalities each year across the Commonwealth.

The OSH Act created the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) in an attempt to decrease workplace injuries and deaths across the country. Under the OSH Act, most U.S. employers are required to comply with certain safety-related laws and regulations, such as providing workers with proper training, information about workplace safety risks, and copies of safety test results. Employers must also supply employees with a working environment that is reasonably free of preventable safety hazards. When a serious workplace accident occurs, OSHA will typically investigate whether the employer complied with current health and safety regulations. Unfortunately, the law only applies to private sector and executive branch workers in Massachusetts.

About half of all states require public agencies to comply with federal health and safety laws. Massachusetts, however, has its own laws regarding public sector employee safety. Currently, the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (“DLS”) has the authority to investigate safety complaints as well as workplace accidents that occur in the state. Although the DLS encourages public sector employers to comply with federal safety regulations, Massachusetts law does not directly require employers to do so. As a result, municipal workers face often risk of electrocution, crushing, fall hazards, amputation, lacerations, and other injuries on a daily basis.

About 1,500 Massachusetts public sector workers sustained an injury that kept them out of work for at least five days in 2014. Sadly, the bulk of those accidents likely would have been prevented if federal health and safety regulations clearly applied to municipal employees. According to experts, closing the gap in municipal employee safety laws may have the added benefit of lowering costs. On average, employers save between four and six dollars for each dollar spent on a health and safety program.

If you were injured at work in Massachusetts, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensationbenefits. The veteran lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are here to help you navigate the sometimes confusing process of filing your worker’s compensation claim. To speak with an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your rights, contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. online or give us a call today at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

The Gap in State’s Safety Laws Contribute to Widespread Injury and Death for Public Employees, Massachusetts Coalition of Occupational Safety and Health Press Release dated July 21, 2015

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