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Protecting America's Workers Act to penalize negligent employers

United States senators in Washington D.C. have their sights set on getting the Protecting America's Workers Act passed this current session.

The law was first introduced by the late Massachusetts Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy 14 years ago in April of 2004. While it's been introduced in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate several times over the past decade and a half, it has yet to gain enough votes to be signed into law.

Six senators are backing the latest version of the bill, known as S. 2621. On March 22, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin noted that the goal of the new Occupational Safety and Health Act is to amplify protections extended to injured workers in the public sector on local, state and federal levels. The bill's backers are even potentially looking at having the bill protect some private sector workers as well.

Another aspect that the bill's backers have been championing is its provision to allow for criminal prosecution of employers who engage in blatant violations of Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) policies.

If the bill were passed, any serious injuries or deaths of workers at companies violating OSHA regulations could result in both the directors and corporate officers of companies being charged with felonies. Currently they only face potential misdemeanor charges if an employee dies. Under the new law, employers would also be subject to a $50,000 fine for any worker's death resulting from violating OSHA standards.

Under the bill, employers would also be required to inform their workers about their rights under OSHA. Whistleblower protections would also be strengthened. It would also require all employers to provide any employee at a worksite with the necessary safety equipment to properly do their jobs.

The legislators backing the bill contend that its passing will pave the way to creating safer workplaces.

If you've been seriously hurt on a jobsite in which OSHA violations have occurred, then a Los Lunas workers' compensation attorney can advise you of legal remedies available to you in your case.

Source: Safety & Health Magazine, "Protecting America’s Workers Act reintroduced in Senate," March 28, 2018

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