A California congresswoman has reintroduced the Protecting America's Workers Act (HR 2067), a thrice-defeated measure that would overhaul the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The measure would expand OSHA’s jurisdiction, protect whistleblowers, and allow felony prosecutions against employers who commit willful violations that result in death or serious bodily injury.
U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., is sponsoring the measure, which died in the last three sessions of Congress but has already drawn 27 cosponsors this time around.
"It has been more than 30 years since the passage of the OSH Act, and it is badly in need of reform,” Woolsey said in introducing the measure April 23. “While thousands of workers have been saved as a result of OSHA, 16 workers are killed and 11,200 workers are injured or made ill each and every day."
She added: "This legislation will strengthen OSHA by expanding coverage to millions of workers who are currently unprotected or inadequately protected, increasing civil and criminal penalties for those who violate the law, and by protecting those who blow the whistle on unsafe employer practices. I look forward to working with [House Education and Labor Committee] Chairman [George] Miller and my colleagues on the committee to pass this legislation and to partnering with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to ensure that every American worker gets the protections that they deserve."
The bill would raise OSHA's civil penalties and index them to inflation; set mandatory minimum penalties for violations involving a worker's death; and require OSHA to investigate all cases of death and serious injuries (incidents that result in the hospitalization of two or more workers).
"Beginning last Congress, we conducted a systematic examination of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and their ability to protect workers. We found that far too many employers were subject to a slap on the wrist or even let off the hook when they put their employee in danger," said Miller, D-Calif. "This legislation is vital to improving the health and safety of American workers."